Bangladesh: Abdul Quader Mollah death sentence violates international law

The ICJ said that the death sentence handed down today by Bangladesh’s Supreme Court against Abdul Quader Mollah is incompatible with international principles of fair trial.

If carried out, the sentence would violate his right to life and freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment.

On 17 September 2013, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh upheld the prosecution’s appeal to impose the death sentence on Abdul Quader Mollah (photo), the assistant Secretary-General of Jamaat-I-Islami.

Abdul Quader Mollah had received a life sentence on February 5, when the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) convicted him on five counts, including murder and rape.

“The prosecution’s appeal to impose the death sentence on Abdul Quader Mollah was based on a law that was not in force when he was first convicted, and applying that law retroactively, especially for the death penalty, violates international law,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific Director.

On 17 February 2013, Parliament passed an amendment to the International Criminal (Tribunals) Act 1973 to enable prosecutors to appeal a life sentence and seek the death penalty.

Before this amendment, the prosecution was only allowed to appeal if the accused was acquitted.

The ICJ says the retrospective application of the amendment in Abdul Quader Mollah’s case is incompatible with Bangladesh’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including Article 15, which prohibits the imposition of a heavier penalty than provided for at the time the criminal offence was committed.

“Judgments such as these highlight the serious problems with the war crimes tribunal that undermine its legitimacy,” Zarifi further said. “The wounds of war can only be healed through a fair and transparent trial process that meets international standards of fair trial and due process of law.”

“It is essential that those responsible for committing atrocities during the Bangladeshi war of liberation are prosecuted and brought to justice,” Zarifi added. “But the death penalty perpetuates the cycle of violence and is a perversion of justice, and all the more so when it is imposed in violation of due process.”

The ICJ considers the death penalty in all cases to constitute a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

The ICJ calls on Bangladesh to join the great majority of States around the world in rejecting the use of the death penalty.

To that end, Bangladesh should impose a moratorium on the practice and take steps towards its abolition, as prescribed by repeated United Nations General Assembly Resolutions.


Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director, (Bangkok), t:+66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(at)

Sheila Varadan, ICJ Legal Advisor, South Asia Programme (Bangkok), t: +66 857200723; email: sheila.varadan(a)


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