Tom Brake MP writes…Violation of judicial process by Bangladesh International Criminal Tribunal

This week the Bangladesh Supreme Court upheld the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) decision to execute Salauddin Quader Chowdhury. This represents the second rejection for Mr Chowdhury, following his original appeal in July 2015. This is a grave injustice for Chowdhury and for Bangladesh.

In 2013, Chowdhury was sentenced to death by the ICT for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Independence War. The original trial, like many others heard by the ICT, has received widespread criticism including from the United Nations and Amnesty International for procedural irregularities and the violation of international fair trial standards.

The case of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was marred by irregularities, the worst of which relates to witnesses for the Defence. The Court imposed a last minute restriction to the number of witnesses the Defence was permitted to call. The Prosecution called 41 witnesses to take the stand against Chowdhury. On the day the final Prosecution witness was called, the Court branded the 1153-long witness list a ploy aimed at delaying the case and arbitrarily cut the Defence witness list to just five.

As a result, key Defence evidence could not be submitted. This evidence included statements by witnesses such as a former United States Ambassador and a former Prime Minister. Both of these are thought to not only be able to corroborate Chowdhury´s alibi but also fundamentally discredit the Prosecution case. Sworn statements, submitted in lieu of witnesses banned from the stand, were disallowed as evidence by the Court. To make matters worse, the Prosecution was granted 13 months to present its witness list and case in its entirety while the Defence was allowed just a single month. It is quite evident that the ICT had no intention of granting Salauddin Quader Chowdhury a fair trial, let alone following due judicial process.

This is an injustice for Mr Chowdhury and for Bangladesh. This kind of disregard for international legal standards is cause for grave concern. But it is the dire repercussions for the people of Bangladesh, a highly unstable country already, that causes the greatest concern. As the situation in Bangladesh continues to deteriorate, this latest miscarriage of justice by the ICT only exacerbates tensions and will surely result in further escalation of an already precarious situation.

As the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson I have written to the Foreign Secretary and called on the British government to condemn the trial in the strongest possible terms. I have asked Mr Hammond to request that the Bangladeshi government ensure the suspension of Chowdhury´s sentence, so that he may be granted a trial recognised as full and fair by the United Nations. I also hope to meet the Bangladeshi High Commissioner to raise this issue.

Our long history in the region demands that the UK Government condemn this trial. We have an obligation to the people of Bangladesh to ensure fairness and justice prevail.

* Tom Brake was the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington from 1997 to 2019.

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