Shahbag : where justice prevails and impunity ends

অতিথি লেখক's picture
Submitted by guest_writer on Thu, 07/03/2013 - 10:37pm

Very little was expected from Mr. Cadman on a fair and impartial article on recent events in Bangladesh and surprisingly enough he even managed to delude that with a great blunder.

Toby Cadman is a barrister specialising in war crimes, international terrorism, extradition and human rights. He has been a defence counsel at the Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal defending Jamat-e-Islami leaders tried by International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh [ICT]. On 5th of March 2013, Mr. Cadman has published an article in open democracy heavily criticising ICT and Govt. of Bangladesh for politically manipulating the verdicts. Mr. Cadman argued that Shahbag movement have created enormous pressure on ICT and forcing them in delivering biased verdicts considering mob sentiment. He questioned about the fairness of ICT in light of the leaked skype conversation. Govt. of Bangladesh was also blamed for forcing the country towards a sectarian violence. With my very little knowledge of judiciary, I will try to answer few of his criticisms he presented in his article.

1. Mob Justice

"If you are determined to execute a man in any case there is no occasion for a trial. The world yields no respect to courts that are merely organized to convict"

Shahbag movement strongly believes and honours the authority, legitimacy as well as fairness of International Crimes Tribunal [ICT]. However in case of Abdul Kader Mollah, considering the grievances of his crime and presence of compelling evidences, we strongly believe that anything less than a death penalty is lenient. Moreover with a future shift in the political tide, there remains the threat of these criminals slip through window of presidential amnesty. Considering the history of Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) shameful history of assisting in reestablishment of Jamat-e-Islami (JI) in Bangladesh, presidential amnesty to these convicted war criminals, is a very likely possibility if they win in next parliamentary election. Despite an enormous public support behind Shahbag movement, Shahbag movement moved forward with “6 point charter” [choy dofa / ৬ দফা ] with 6 clearly defined legitimate demands, which never demanded unlawful execution/punishment of any of any war criminals [1]. The most notable of the war criminals Dr. Golam Azam was being treated in a hospital, just at the doorsteps of Shahbag, where 1000,000 people gathered. Not a single incident of antisocial behaviour, such as verbal or physical abuse, intimidation [Which would have been a mob justice] was reported. International Crimes Tribunal Act of 1973 did not accommodate any provision for the prosecution to appeal in case of a lenient judgment than expected. By amending the law, govt of Bangladesh widened the opportunity of fair justice without compromising defendant’s legal rights. The amended law does not ensure a death penalty, what Mr. Toby Cadman desperately tried to establish in his article, rather only improves the legal rights for both parties towards justice.

2. Leaked Skype Conversation

“Following last November’s leaked Skype conversations and emails, between the former presiding judge and Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Md Nizamul Huq with an undeclared third party, revealed to be a Bangladeshi law professor residing in Belgium, the scale of the injustice that the accused face has become clear”

The leaked Skype conversation can never be considered as an authentic source of evidence to question the fairness of ICT, as these were illegally acquired material and any substantial evidence is yet to be found to establish their authenticity [2]. Assuming the leaked conversation is an authentic piece of evidence, just for the sake of argument, it is of great importance to mention that, not a single piece of text from that alleged conversion indicates bias towards any particular judgement [3]. It is understandable that discussing sensitive case materials with unauthorized personnel is a breach of conduct, however as I have motioned earlier, the discussion was a mere personal conversation on legal framework as well as many other personal matters rather the case material itself. However Justice Nizamul huq took full responsibility for this breach of legal conduct and resigned from ICT to ensure its fairness.

3. Politically motivated

Mr. Cadman also criticised ICT from few other aspects such as political biasness, lack of transparency, falling short of international standards, and limited rights of defendants. Let us take a pause from the current context and study some of the recent International Crimes Tribunals set up by International Crimes Court, which were often referred in this context.

3.1 International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

• Moscow has criticised the ICTY has being ineffective, costly and politically motivated, “The tribunal has long discredited itself and Šešelj’s case is just one more proof of that. Even Carla del Ponte admitted that the case against him was politically motivated,”

• Critics have questioned whether the Tribunal exacerbates tensions rather than promotes reconciliation, as is claimed by Tribunal supporters.

3.2 Nuremberg Trial
The famous Nuremberg Trial suffers severe criticism from human rights organizations due to absence of appeal rights for defendants.

Historical evidences suggest that, often sponsors of war crimes trials concede similar criticisms about political motive and indeed politics plays a crucial part but it is however a particularly liberal form of politics (Bass, 2000 via Garry J. Simpson, 2007). Garry J. Simpson strongly argued against the association of the term politics, in it’s orthodox form [suggesting such trials are pre-destined to perform certain political function] with war crime trial, as it is politics of in the sense of conveying a strong message against mass criminality, individualism and lawlessness. For example Nuremberg trial was a rebuke to the absence of law, racism and heinous Nazi political ideology during the Third Reich (Garry J. Simpson, 2007).

ICT Bangladesh is working relentlessly to ensure justice to the victims of war crime during 1971. Except for a significantly small fraction of Islamic fundamentalist in Bangladesh, the whole nation has shown unprecedented support to its work towards end of impunity.

4. Sectarian Violence

“The Sayedee conviction and sentence represents the most disturbing display of manipulated justice. It should serve as a warning that the Government of Bangladesh is driving the country deeper into sectarian conflict, and that the violence on the streets of its major cities is likely to increase. “

Despite being an expert of international law, Mr. Cadman has demonstrated a shameful display of ignorance and breach of legal decorum by accusing the govt. of Bangladesh for recent anarchy and display of sectarian violence by Jamat-e-Islami thugs [6]. This is the political party involved in masterminding mass scale killing of Bengali minorities, raping thousands of women during the 1971 liberation war. Time and again they were involved in similar crimes throughout country since their reestablishment in Bangladesh [7]. Jamaat-e-Islam was established on Ala-Maududis ideology of Islamic domination, which despite participating in 4 general elections does not even believe in democracy and civil judiciary [9].

Shahbag movement believes in people’s power, believes in democracy, believes in peaceful protest, which we have successfully demonstrated since last month. We will continue this protest until every single war criminal is brought under justice. We have paid millions of lives for our language, independence and democracy. We value every single of these assets more than any mercenary lawyer like Toby Cadman can ever imagine.

“Justice will be truly damned if let this practice of impunity continue and we are determined to end it here."


shopnobiva ( স্বপ্নবিভা )


5. Garry J. Simpson, 2007, Law, War & Crime: War Crimes, Trials and the Reinvention of International Law.


রানা মেহের's picture

Very good name and shame article.
Mr.Cadman is serving well his client Jamat. But people of Bangladesh is not full.
Hw should think twice before say any rubbish

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