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ICT rules change insufficient for fair trial: HRW

Edit Date:7/14/2011 12:00:00 AM

The Human Rights Watch in a statement on Tuesday said that the new amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the International Crimes Tribunal did ‘address some key problems’ but ‘fail[ed] to bring other areas of the law and rules into compliance with international standards.’

Brad Adams, the director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, said, ‘While the amendments are a significant improvement, key problems still need to be fixed to ensure fair trials and avoid unnecessarily lengthy appeals.’The tribunal, set up under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 to prosecute Bangladeshi citizens alleged to have committed war crimes and other international crimes during the 1971 war of independence, made public in the past week the latest amendment to its rules.

In the statement, the Human Rights Watch went on to suggest six further changes that it considered ‘necessary to ensure fair trials’ — repeal of the first amendment to the constitution; allowing an accused to question the impartiality of the tribunal; amending the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act to ensure that the ‘definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide conform with international standards’; ensuring that the defence is given adequate time to prepare, instead of the current three weeks; and giving the accused the right to make appeals during the trial (interlocutory appeals) instead of only at the end.

Abdur Razzaq, the head of the legal team, representing the five leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami detained for nearly a year by the tribunal on allegations of committing war crimes, on Tuesday claimed that unless further significant changes were made to the legal regime regulating the tribunal, any trial it held ‘would be a show trial’. At a press briefing held in the Supreme Court Bar Association’s auditorium, Abdur Razzaq, sitting with four other members of the legal team of the accused, rejected the changes made to the rules as ‘cosmetic’ and criticised comments made earlier by the registrar that the tribunal was a ‘national tribunal prosecuting international crimes.’

‘If you say that it is a domestic tribunal then follow the domestic laws, allow the accused persons the protection of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, the procedural safeguards contained in the Criminal Procedure Code and the substantive law of evidence contained in the Evidence Act,’ he said. Razzaq outlined five key demands including the repeal of the first amendment to the constitution, which would then allow ‘the accused persons to exercise their fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution’; creating a forum to hear appeals against the tribunal’s decisions prior to conviction; and allowing foreign counsel to appear before the tribunal.

In response to a question about what would happen if these changes were not made, Razzaq said that his legal team may decide to stop participating in the tribunal proceedings. Razzak said that without these changes the tribunal would not be ‘acceptable to us, to the right-thinking people of Bangladesh [or] to the international community.’

In an impromptu press briefing following Razzaq’s press conference, the chief prosecutor, Golam Arif Tipu, said that he thought it was inappropriate for the defence lawyers to hold a press conference commenting on the rules in this manner. He also defended the 1973 act which he said was based on the international standards that existed at the time. ‘So far as the rules are concerned, I have no grievance,’ he told New Age later. ‘The changes also provide advantages to the accused.’


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