International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Tuesday expressed grave concern at the tragic death of Mostafa Howlader, who testified against condemned 1971 war criminal Jamaat-e-Islami stalwart Delwar Hossain Sayedee, as the prosecution and authorities concerned failed to protect him.
Mostafa succumbed to his wounds at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) in the small hours on Tuesday.
Prosecution witness-8 Mostafa, 55, along with his wife was attacked by miscreants with sharp weapons in his ancestral home in Pirozpur on Saturday and he was later transferred to the DMCH for better treatment.
On October 28, the house in village Tengratila in Zianagar, Pirozpur, belonging to Mahbubul Alam Hawlader, PW-1 in the war crimes case against condemned Sayedee was badly vandalised.
On February 28, the tribunal-1 condemned Sayedee, nayeb-e-ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami, to death for his crimes against humanity during the Liberation War 42 years ago.
The three-member tribunal, headed by Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, came up with the observation today (Tuesday) when the prosecution was arguing before it to allow three prosecution witnesses(PWs), including two women, to testify against war crimes accused Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general ATM Azharul Islam in camera for the sake of their protection and social safety.
Interrupting designated prosecutor AKM Saiful Islam, the tribunal, referring to the tragic death of PW Mostafa, asked him to make it clear what measures the prosecution have taken to protect the PWs.
“A witness will be killed by the other after providing evidence before the tribunal, it can’t be conceived in an independent country and can’t be overlooked,” it said.
Terming unfortunate the failure to protect the PW and also a direct threat to the judiciary, the tribunal said: “Don’t bring the PW before the tribunal if you (prosecution) can’t ensure his security.”
The tribunal further asked the prosecution to put pressure upon the government to make the ICT witness protection rule effective.
“It’s really surprising that when the witness protection law is effectively executed worldwide, no one here is bothered about it,” the tribunal said.
In reply, the designated prosecutor drew attention of the tribunal to issue a suo moto rule upon the government in this regard as the prosecutors also have been facing insecurity and receiving threat over telephone and by letters from unknown quarters in conducting the war crimes cases.
Hearing the prosecution, the tribunal asked them to submit an application over the issue.