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Bangladesh Must Stop International Criminal Tribunal Executions; Government's Actions Imperil Democracy

BANGLADESH - Bangladesh is in a state of unrest that will only grow worse if Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina continues to abandon the rule of law by allowing the execution of two opposition leaders in days. PM Hasina has long given up listening to the people of Bangladesh or respecting human rights. The international community must immediately pressure her to stop these executions and reform her government.

The International Criminal Tribunal (ICT) is at the heart of oppression and unrest in Bangladesh. PM Hasina uses the ICT to imprison and in some cases execute opposition party leaders instead of allowing the ICT to fulfill its purpose of prosecuting crimes from the 1971 War. As Amnesty International stated this week, the ICT fails to meet international standards for a fair trial. Furthermore, the ICT is one of the fundamental reasons that Bangladesh is descending into violence. For years, decisions by the ICT have led to surges in violence at the announcement of verdicts and executions.

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One of the prisoners facing execution, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, is a leader in the opposition BangladeshNationalist Party. During the ICT trial, Chowdhury was allowed only four defense witnesses to defend 23 charges while the Tribunal was allowed 41 witnesses. The ICT did not allow 26 crucial defense witnesses to testify or submit affidavits, attesting that Chowdhury was in Pakistan during the war of independence in 1971. The witnesses include a former Prime Minister of Pakistan and former US Ambassador. Unless the Bangladesh Supreme Court grants an appeal from Chowdhury and another opposition politician at a hearing on November 2, it is likely that they will be executed.

To institute the rule of law in Bangladesh, PM Hasina must immediately take the following steps to turn the ICT into a court that is truly independent and international:

Convene a reconstituted, internationally sanctioned and supervised war crimes tribunal

Impose a moratorium on all executions ordered by the ICT

Allow a fully independent inquiry into all ICT judgments

Halt all current trials until the above policies are implemented

The international community must pressure PM Hasina now. Otherwise, more opposition leaders will lose their lives, and Bangladesh will continue down a path to one-party rule and oppression.


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