Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed on Friday said the statement of the New York-based rights body Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the ICT verdict against former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam is baseless and illogical.
“I’ve heard about the statement. This statement is baseless and illogical. There’s no scope to raise question about the trial process,” he told UNB over phone.
The Law Minister said the war crimes trial is being conducted maintaining international standards and the accused have been given the enough scope and time to defend. “Much time has been taken in the argument. And the things have been done transparently maintaining the international standard.”
In a statement today, the global human rights watchdog said the trial of Ghulam Azam, the former chief of Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami, at Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal was deeply flawed and did not meet international fair trial standards.
Talking to UNB, prosecutor of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) Adv Rana Dasgupta said, “Who are they to comment? It’s the Supreme Court (SC) that will decide whether the judgment was wrong or right. Why is the HRW taking the responsibility?”
He said the Appellate Division will decide if the trial has been held properly. “So, their statement is biased and part of a conspiracy to create confusion.”
Responding to a question, Rana Dasgupta said the HRW, in the name of a right watchdog body, is spreading statement of criminals as they are influenced by money given by lobbyists. “Having money from the lobbyists appointed by the criminals is more important to them that of the reality.”
He said there is basically nothing to take into consideration from such biased statement as they have been doing this since the very beginning of the trial of war criminals.
The judgment, handed down on July 15, 2013, found Azam guilty on all counts, and sentenced him to life in prison for 90 years. He was spared the death penalty due to old age. On August 12, the prosecution appealed the sentence, arguing that Azam deserved the death penalty.
In March 2010, Azam was charged with six counts of offence — conspiracy, planning, incitement, complicity, murder, and torture as crimes against humanity — by the International Crimes Tribunal, a specially constituted tribunal set up to try those responsible for war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war.
“Human Rights Watch has long supported the efforts to deliver accountability for the atrocities committed during the 1971 war, and to ensuring meaningful justice to victims and survivors, through fair trials which meet international standards,” said Brad Adams, Asia director in the statement.
“We sounded the alarm that the law and trial process were deficient, but the government ignored the warnings. The government has got the conviction it wanted, but it has failed to ensure a fair trial that settles once and for all whether Ghulam Azam was guilty.”
Besides, there have been ongoing problems with intimidation of defense witnesses and raids on defense chambers, including in the Azam case. The trial chambers have not ordered any investigation or offered any practical solution to overcoming the security concerns expressed by defense witnesses.
“The problems with the Azam trial are manifold, and lead to the inescapable conclusion that there has been strong judicial bias towards the prosecution and grave violations of due process rights,” Adams said.
“The victims of these crimes and their families deserve real answers, which can only be found through fair and transparent proceedings,” said the statement.