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HRW urges further amendments to Bangladesh international crimes tribunal

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent a letter [text] to the Bangladesh government Thursday praising its International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) [Facebook page] to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the 1971 struggle for independence, but urged the government to ensure that the trials are carried out in accordance with international human rights expectations. The letter, sent to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, praised the parliament's passage of amendments to its International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 (ICA) [text, PDF], including instituting civilian judges rather than military judges and mandating independence for the tribunal's judicial functions. However, HRW says, "that additional amendments to the Act and Rules are necessary to ensure that trials are carried out in accordance with Bangladesh's international human rights obligations, international criminal law, and Bangladesh's constitution." HRW says the act was in accordance with international standards at the time but needs to be updated to be more like other international criminal tribunals around the world such as International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official websites].

Earlier this month, a petition was filed [bdnews24.com report] in the High Court challenging two sections of the ICA that were amended in 2009. The petition raises questions over whether the tribunal can prosecute any persons or only military personnel and over who may serve on the Supreme Court. In July 2010, the Bangladesh ICT issued four arrest warrants [JURIST report] for the leaders of the Islamist group Jamaat e Islami for crimes committed during 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounders]. The Bangladesh ICT was established in March 2010 to hear cases against individuals accused of war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. According to Law Minister Shafique Ahmed [official profile], the tribunal will include [AP report] three high court judges and six investigators retired from civilian, law enforcement, and military careers.

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