Key figures in Bangladesh’s main religious opposition party, Jamaat-e-Islami, have been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity committed during the country’s War of Independence from Pakistan in 1971. Courts have recently found guilty leaders Motiur Rahman Nizami and Quasem Ali. There are growing concerns that the charges are political motivated and the convictions grossly unjust.
The allegation of war crimes has been raised against Jamaat leaders after almost 40 years, long after suspected figures had previously been pardoned. Several individuals on the list were under 10 years old during the War. The Bangladesh Awami League, the ruling party, released a list of 36 individuals from the Jamaat-e-Islami party who were guilty of war crimes before the trial even commenced.
The International Movement for a JUST World (JUST) reiterates its earlier stand that recent trials— like past trials — should have been conducted in accordance with international norms and standards. If the accused are charged without concrete evidence against them, the already widespread perception that the trials against Jamaat leaders are political in nature will get even stronger. The Judiciary would be seen as a political tool of the ruling government to target opposition parties.
The government should demonstrate that it is sensitive to negative views about the trials expressed by individuals and groups in so many countries by at least applying to the courts to commute all the death sentences meted out so far to life imprisonments.
The Executive Committee,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
3 November 2014.