Bangladesh death sentence flayed

New York, Sep 19 (IANS) Human Rights Watch Thursday said the death sentence awarded to a Jamaat-e-Islami leader in Bangladesh for war crimes was a violation of international fair trial standards.

The sentence against Abdul Qader Mollah "is based on the retroactive application of amended legislation after the conclusion of his trial and violates international fair trial standards", it said.

Human Rights Watch has long supported efforts to deliver accountability for the atrocities committed during Bangladesh's war of independence and to ensuring meaningful justice for victims and survivors through fair and transparent trials which meet the highest standards.

Human Rights Watch takes no position on the guilt or innocence of any of the accused at the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) of Bangladesh.

Said Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch: "Changing the law and applying it retroactively after a trial offends basic notions of a fair trial under international law."

On Feb 5, Mollah was sentenced to life in prison by ICT, a domestic court holding trials for atrocities committed in Bangladesh's 1971 war of liberation from West Pakistan.

He was convicted on five of six counts, including murder and rape as crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was acquitted on one count of murder.

Government officials, members of the ruling Awami League party, and segments of the public reacted with outrage that Mollah was not sentenced to death.

Large crowds assembled in the Shahbag area of Dhaka demanding the death penalty.

The government responded by proposing amendments to the ICT law, allowing the prosecution to appeal the sentence and decreasing the time for an appeal from 90 days to 60 days.

Until the Mollah case, the prosecution was only allowed to appeal if the accused was acquitted. 90 days were allowed for appeals.

The amendments were adopted Feb 17. On Sep 17, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court reversed the life sentence on Mollah and imposed the death penalty for murder and rape as crimes against humanity.

Human Rights Watch said the amendments were a clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a state party.

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