The ICJ urgently calls on Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid to intervene to stop the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah.
The Supreme Court handed down its judgment against Abdul Quader Mollah on 5 December 2013.
The 790-page judgment was sent to the International Crimes Tribunal on 8 December 2013 and a death warrant was issued against Abdul Quader Mollah (photo) on the same day.
It was immediately sent to the Dhaka Central Jail and he may be executed at any time unless President Abdul Hamid or the Supreme Court intervenes.
Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay issued a statement, expressing her deep concern over the rising levels of political violence in Bangladesh, calling on both sides to ‘’halt their destructive brinkmanship.’’
‘‘In an increasingly volatile situation, executing Abdul Quader Mollah risks pushing the Government towards a state of emergency, placing democracy and rule of law in peril,’’ said Ben Schonveld, ICJ South Asia Director. ‘‘The timing of the Supreme Court’s decision and the Tribunal’s subsequent death warrant raise serious questions about the political motivations behind the ICT process as well as the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.’’
The ICJ is concerned that the International Crimes Tribunal has not adhered to international standards.
As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Bangladesh is obligated to guarantee the right to a fair trial to all suspects, which includes special protections for those facing the death penalty.
The ICJ considers the death penalty to constitute a violation of the right to life and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
It calls on the government of Bangladesh to impose a moratorium on the carrying out death sentences with a view to abolition, in compliance with repeated United Nations General Assembly resolutions on the question.
“The use of the capital punishment is particularly egregious in the Abdul Quader Mollah case, given that Parliament retroactively changed the law to enable the Supreme Court to impose a sentence of death on appeal,’’ added Schonveld. ‘‘Retroactively changing laws to influence the outcome in a case not only goes against the prohibition on retroactivity, it undermines the independence of the judiciary and the judicial function.’’
The ICJ urges President Abdul Hamid to intervene to stop the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah.
Ben Schonveld, ICJ South Asia Director (Kathmandu), t:+97714432651 ; email: ben.schonveld(a)icj.org
Sheila Varadan, ICJ International Legal Advisor, South Asia Programme (Bangkok), t: +66857200723; email: sheila.varadan(a)icj.org
Political violence has continued to escalate in Bangladesh
Abdul Quader Mollah was indicted on six counts of crimes against humanity before the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). On 5 February 2013, the ICT rendered its verdict, finding him guilty on five counts and acquitting him on the sixth count. The ICT sentenced him to life imprisonment on two counts for his involvement in the Alubdi mass murder and the murder and rape of a family. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on the remaining three counts.
At the time of the verdict, section 21(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973 did not permit the Prosecution to appeal a sentence to obtain a heavier sentence.
The ICT verdict in the Mollah case sparked widespread protests, drawing tens of thousands of protesters to Shabagh Square, demanding that Mollah be sentenced to death.
Responding to public outcry, on 14 February 2013, the Parliament of Bangladesh drafted an amendment to change Section 21(2) of the International (Crimes) Tribunal Act 1973 to allow Prosecution to appeal a sentence in a conviction to seek a heavier sentence. The amendment was passed on 17 February and deemed to apply retroactively from 14 July 2009.
Acting on the basis of the Amendment to Section 21(2), the prosecution appealed the life sentences given to Mollah, seeking the death penalty. The prosecution also appealed the acquittal handed down. The defence in turn appealed the convictions on the five counts.
On 17 September 2013, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court issued an oral decision with no reasons overturning the acquittal and entering a conviction; overturning one of the life sentences and imposing a sentence of death; dismissing the appeal made by the defence.
On 5 December 2013, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court issued its 790-page judgment giving its reasons for overturning the life sentence and handing down the death penalty. The 790-page judgment was forwarded to the ICT-2 on 8 December 2013. The ICT-2 then issued a warrant of death against Abdul Quader Mollah and sent it to the Central Dhaka jail to be executed.