Verdicts stir up controversy over Bangladesh war tribunal

05 November 2014 by David Bergman

A spate of rulings against leaders of Bangladesh’s biggest Islamist opposition party for atrocities during the war in 1971 shows the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) forging ahead – despite continuing criticism from outside the country.

On Monday, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for Mohammad Kamaruzzan, one of the current leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, convicted by the ICT in May last year for genocide and torture. This decision comes hot on the heels of two other death sentences handed out by the ICT last week. 

On Sunday, another key figure in the party, media tycoon Mir Quasem Ali, was sentenced to be hanged by the tribunal just days after the head of Jamaat, Motiur Rahman Nizami, 71, received a similar sentence. The court found that Nizami had led the Al Badr death squad, which supported Pakistan in its fight to stop Bangladesh secession. His death sentence was for four particular offences, including the mass killing of around 450 civilians and the rape of 30 women in Pabna. Estimates of conflict casualties, most at the hands of the Pakistani military and their collaborators, range from 300,000 to 3 million. Ali and Nizami’s convictions makes for nine men so far sentenced to death by the Dhaka-based ICT, established in 2009. Another two have been given life sentences. 

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.