Bangladesh: conviction of journalist chills speech

The December 2 conviction of journalist David Bergman on contempt charges by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) further shrinks the narrowing space for observers to comment on the war crimes proceedings, the ICJ, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said.

Bergman (photo) was sentenced to a symbolic “simple imprisonment till the rising of the court” and a fine of Taka 5,000 (about US$56) for comments he made in three separate blog postings regarding legal proceedings before the ICT.

The ICT is a specially constituted court set up to bring to account those responsible for grave violations of international law during the country’s 1971 war of independence.

Concerns over its statute, rules of procedure, and practices have been raised since its inception, including by international monitors and legal experts.

“The ICT is dealing with incredibly complex factual and emotional issues of tremendous interest to people in Bangladesh and across the world, and part of this process is establishing public confidence in the legal system,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Director for Asia. “Holding a credible and highly regarded journalist in contempt for raising important questions doesn’t end the debate surrounding the ICT’s performance, in fact it undermines confidence in the court’s commitment to justice.”

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