He said Bangladesh Supreme Court’s rejection of the death penalty review petition for war criminal Muhammed Kamaruzzaman permits his imminent execution. Kamaruzzaman, a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islaami party, was convicted of war crimes committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence. The authorities should immediately stay Kamaruzzaman’s death sentence pending an independent review of his case.
Kamaruzzaman’s death sentence was upheld on appeal in November 2014. Following the publication of the full text of the judgment against him, he filed for an independent review of his sentence to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on March 5, 2015. “Without hearing the application on its merits, the country’s highest court summarily rejected his petition and upheld the death sentence,” the HRW said.
Kamaruzzaman was arrested in July 2010 on the orders of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which was set up to address the atrocities committed during the 1971 war which led to independence for Bangladesh from Pakistan. The right body said Kamaruzzaman was given no reason for his arrest, leading the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to classify his arrest as arbitrary and a violation of international law.
At his trial, it said, the court arbitrarily limited the ability of the defence to submit evidence, including witnesses and documents. “The court denied the defence the opportunity to challenge the credibility of prosecution witnesses by rejecting witnesses’ earlier statements that were inconsistent with their trial testimony. The court denied a defence application to recuse two judges for prior bias.”
“Human Rights Watch has long supported justice and accountability for the horrific crimes that occurred in 1971, but these trials need to meet international fair trial standards to properly deliver on those promises for the victims,” Adams said adding, “Delivering justice requires adhering to the highest standards, particularly when a life is at stake. The conduct of Kamaruzzaman’s trial cannot be said to have met those standards.” The HRW reiterated its longstanding call for Bangladesh to impose an immediate moratorium on the death penalty. According to statements of UN human rights experts and various UN bodies, the death penalty is inconsistent with international human rights law.
The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a state party, has said “in cases of trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty, scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important” and that any death penalty imposed after an unfair trial would be a violation of the right to a fair trial.
Bangladesh should join with the many countries already committed to the UN General Assembly’s December 18, 2007 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions and a move by UN member countries toward abolition of the death penalty.
The HRW opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel punishment.