The Economist sued by Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal
The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) of Bangladesh has issued a notice to the UK based newsweekly The Economist on Thursday 6 December. The tribunal’s chief Justice Nizamul Huq Nasim has directed The Economist to explain why punitive action should not be taken for interfering with the trial. The newsweekly was accused of violating the privacy of a judge by hacking in to his conversation with another barrister based in Brussels. The Economist has been given three weeks to reply to the notice. According to a report published in the Daily Star a Bangladeshi English language newspaper, Justice Huq was in regular conversation with Ahmed Ziauddin, a resident of Brussels, Belgium via email and Skype. Justice Huq said, he recently found out that, Ahmed Ziauddin’s email and Skype account was hacked and conversations between him and Justice Nizamul Huq have been recorded and an Economist reporter asked his opinion regarding this as it is going to be published in the next issue of the aforementioned newsweekly. “He (the caller) wanted to know about the current position of the trial in ICT,” the justice said. The tribunal on Thursday passed the order saying no one can ask a presiding judge about an ongoing trial in his court and it is a serious offence. The tribunal also directed it (The Economist) not to publish the record in any circumstances. In its order, the tribunal said a copy of this order should be served to inspector general of police for probe into the matter. The question many critical of the trials’ proceedings are asking now, is how Mr. Ziauddin has been allowed to interfere and instruct the Judge in question? The recorded email and Skype conversations are alleged to have detailed information regarding Ahmed Ziauddin’s role in the International Crime Tribunal of Bangladesh. Although in his order Justice Nasim claimed that Ahmed Ziauddin is a consultant and he time to time sought counsel and guidance from him. However, he did not disclose to the concerned parties as to under which capacity Mr Ziauddin acts as an adviser to the tribunal. It is alleged that, Mr Ziauddin, is the person who yields enormous power over the WCT and he even dictates the chief of the tribunal regarding trial process which has been established by the notice served to the Economist. There is a murmur in the air that he is writing the verdict for the case of Delowar Hossain Sayeedi, a leader of Islamic party Bangladesh jamaat-e-Islami. For a long time bloggers, people active in the social medias have been raising concern about Mr Ziauddin’s role in the WCT; their concerns now have a legitimate ground. Ahmed Ziauddin is a party man of ruling Awami League government of Bangladesh. He has been a long campaigner to start war crime trial of those who are accused of committing war crime in the independent war of 1971. A kangaroo Court The opposition of the International Crime tribunal have dubbed it a kangaroo trial because of its alleged partisan nature. The Judges panel and Public prosecutors as well as witnesses produced in the court all have ties with Awami League. Only members from the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Nationalist party has been accused of war crime and altogether 9 of them are facing trial of which 7 are from Jamaat-e-Islami and 2 are Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders. The international war crime tribunal act of 1973 is the basis of the trial process that is now taking place in Bangladesh. It should be mentioned here that this act was designed to try 195 alleged war criminals soon after the independence. In a treaty signed between India- Pakistan and Bangladesh those identified war criminal was pardoned and the then Prime Minster of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to justify his action said that, we set and example that Bengalis can forgive. Those who collaborated with the Pakistani army during the war were tried under a separate law known as collaborator act. However none of the persons who are currently standing trial accused of committing war crimes in 1971 was mentioned in any of the government report as war criminal. No case was filed against them when memory of war was still fresh in the mind of the people. Even Sheikh Hasina worked side by side with the currently imprisoned leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami in the anti Ershad movement of 80’s and caretaker government movement, a concept introduced by now imprisoned Jamaat Leader Professor Ghulam Azam in the 90’s. During her first term form 1996 – 2001, she never mentioned trying the war criminals. In fact it is widely established fact that father and grandfather of her son in law and father in law of her cousin’s daughter were also two prominent collaborator of Pakistani Army. One of them is a serving cabinet minster in her present government. There are well established fact that the current tribunal established in 2010 is actually being used as a tool to harass and suppress the opposition. Should the government was in deed very much authentic in its intention to try the war criminal then it should have bring back the identified 195 war criminals from Pakistan in the first place and should include all the persons accused of committing war crime regardless of party affiliation.
Condemned by International Organizations
Many acclaimed international organizations have accused the current trial to be biased. In early 2010 the International Bar Association (IBA) concluded that the legislative framework of the Tribunal fell short of recognised international standards and required reform. The IBA, the US Ambassador for Global Justice, Stephen Rapp and others have criticised the Tribunal’s procedures and the evident bias of the Chairman of the Tribunal. It should be mentioned here that Justice Nizamul Haque Nasim, the chief of the current tribunal had served as the member secretary in the so called people’s court which staged a mock trial of the accused who are standing trial now and carried out the mock execution.
Proven track of biasness:
On Monday 5 November 2012, Defence Witness Mr Sukhoronjon Bali was abducted from within the Tribunal premises. As the Tribunal in Chief Prosecutor v Sayedee had failed to produce any formal order closing the Defence case, Counsel for the Defence invited Mr Bali to attend the Tribunal. They reported to the Bench that they accompanied Mr Bali to the Tribunal where counsel and Mr Bali were told to exit their car, after which the latter was escorted away by men in civilian clothing who identified themselves as members of the police Special Branch. Counsel for the Defence, Mizanul Islam, sought the rapid intervention of the Tribunal however it seems very little action is being taken to look into this matter. To date, no news has been had as to the whereabouts and welfare of Mr Bali. On 18 October 2012, the Tribunal in Chief Prosecutor v Sayedee issued an order that effectively closed the Defence case after just six weeks of evidence, when the Prosecution case carried out over nine months. The Tribunal further refused to certify this and any future orders in a bid to stop the Defence from filing reviews under section 26(4) ICTA. On 22 October 2012, the Tribunal in Chief Prosecutor v Sayedee announced that it was limiting the length of the closing written submissions of the parties to ten pages. Considering the seriousness of the charges facing the Defendants, this can only be considered a vexatious order by a biased Tribunal. The number of Defence Witnesses (hereinafter: DW) in Chief Prosecutor v Sayedee, Chief Prosecutor v Azam and Chief Prosecutor v Molla has been limited to twenty, twelve and six respectively, thereby allowing one witness per charge. The above establishes the fact that the tribunal is a biased one and has little or no intention to deliver justice. The notice served to The Economist has raised many serious questions. People have the right to know the truth. I hope that The Economist will not compromise with any pressure, yielding to any vested quarter.