ICJ denounces spate of death sentences in Bangladesh
The ICJ deplores that in less than a week, Bangladesh courts ordered the death penalty in three cases. All three condemned men are leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party and an ally of the main opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
On 3 November 2014, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty against Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, the assistant secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami.
He had been convicted and sentenced to death by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in May 2013 on five counts, including mass killing during the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971.
On 29 October 2014, the International Criminal Court sentenced Motiur Rahman Nizami, the current chief of the Jamaat, to death on four charges, including genocide.
Three days later, on 2 November, the ICT gave Mir Quasem Ali, another Jamaat leader, capital punishment for abduction, torture and murder.
“It is unfortunate that Bangladeshi courts continue to hand down one death sentence after the other,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Director for Asia and the Pacific. “While it is essential that those responsible for committing atrocities during the Bangladeshi war of liberation are prosecuted and brought to justice in fair trials, the death penalty perpetuates the cycle of violence and is a perversion of justice.”
Motiur Rahman Nizami and Mir Quasem Ali have the right to appeal their death sentences before the Supreme Court.
However, after the statement of the Attorney General of Bangladesh that the ICT law does not make any provision for the Supreme Court’s appellate decisions to be reviewed, the only recourse left open to Mohammad Kamaruzzaman may be to appeal to the President of Bangladesh for clemency.
Bangladesh has already executed one Jamaat leader convicted of committing war crimes during the liberation war: Abdul Quader Mollah, a senior member of the Jamaat, was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in September 2013, and executed on 12 December 2013.
The ICJ opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception.
The death penalty constitutes a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution emphasizing that “that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity” and calling for the establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty “with a view to abolishing the death penalty”.
The resolution was reaffirmed in 2008, 2010, and most recently in December 2012, when an overwhelming majority of 110 UN Member States voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards abolition of the death penalty.
The ICJ urges the Bangladeshi Government to respect UN General Assembly resolutions and commute the sentences of Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, Motiur Rahman Nizami and Mir Quasem Ali as a matter of urgency.
In addition, ICJ also calls on Bangladesh to join the great majority of States around the world in instating a moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in law and in practice.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director (Bangkok), t: +66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org