The International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Monday issued notices upon Human Rights Watch (HRW) and its two officials asking to explain why contempt proceedings should not be drawn against them for publishing a ‘scandalous’ report on its judgment against ex-Jamaat-e-Islami ameer Ghulam Azam, a 1971 war crimes convict.
ICT-1 Chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, flanked by his two other colleagues Justices Jahangir Hossain and Anwarul Haque, passed the order, responding to a contempt petition placed by the ICT Chief Prosecutor on August 22 under section 11 (4) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973.
The New York-based global rights body represented by its board of directors, and its Executive Director, Asia Division, Brad Adams, and Associate, Asia Division, Storm Tiv, have been made opposite parties in the contempt case.
“On perusal of the petition for contempt and the alleged article released on August 16 and having considered the submissions of the learned prosecutors, we’re of the opinion that there’re sufficient grounds before us to draw up contempt proceedings against the opposite parties,” said the tribunal order.
The trio opposite parties will have to reply to the notices within three weeks, said the tribunal order. “Let a copy of the order containing the notice be served upon the opposite parties through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said the tribunal.
In the order, the tribunal asked its registrar to take necessary measures to get the notices as directed.
The matter will be placed before the tribunal on September 30 for further order.
After a month of pronouncement of the judgment, the HRW on August 16 released a report on its website headlined ‘Bangladesh: Azam conviction based on flawed proceedings: Analysis outlines how fair trial rights of accused seriously compromised’.
The report claims that the trial of the former Jamaat-e-Islami chief was deeply flawed and it had not met the international standards.
It says: “The judges improperly conducted an investigation on behalf of the prosecution and expressed concern over collusion and biased among prosecutors and judges.”
The HRW also expresses concern over the “failure to take steps to protect defence witnesses”, and “lack of evidence to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
It further claims that the defence counsels were not aware of the “investigation” and were thus unable to comment on or challenge the evidence which was a serious violation of article-14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Bangladesh was a party.
On July 15, the ICT-1 sentenced Ghulam Azam to 90 years’ imprisonment finding him guilty of all five charges of the 1971 crimes against humanity and genocide against him.
Ghulam Azam has appealed against the verdict before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court while the prosecution appealed against inadequate sentencing of the former Jamaat chief. Both the appeals are now pending before the apex court for disposal.