Professor Ghulam Azam

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HRW: Human rights abuses in Bangladesh

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Human Rights Watch published its World Report recently, and also posted an article on its website entitled Bangladesh: Tightened Control and Broken Promises. This documents human rights abuses in Bangladesh under the aegis of the Awami League government, including a rise in extrajudicial killings, disappearances, harassment of human rights organisations, and torture.

They also criticised the International Crimes Tribunal, saying:

Charges have been filed against seven people accused of war crimes during the 1971 war for independence. The first trial under the tribunal began in September against Delawar Hossein Sayedee. Some important amendments were made in June to the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) Rules of Procedure, which included ensuring the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to a fair and public trial, the right against double jeopardy, and the right to counsel of the accused’s choice.

However, these amendments did not address other important shortcomings in the rules, such as the denial of interlocutory appeals, the need to establish a defense office, and the need to repeal article 47(A) of the constitution, which denies fundamental rights under the constitution to individuals accused under the ICT Act. The provision even bars claims that article 47(A) is unconstitutional.

The proceedings in Sayedee’s case raise serious concerns about the impartiality of the bench and the rights of the accused to a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said. The accused has been denied access to foreign counsel of his choice, and the defense teams contend that defense witnesses and investigators have been harassed.

“Bangladesh promised to meet international standards in these landmark trials, but it still has a long way to go to meet this commitment,” Adams said. “Bangladesh could have set the standard for other nations that have suffered from unspeakable abuses, but problems with the law and the conduct of the first trial are throwing away this opportunity.”

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