A day after the Human Rights Watch released its '2013 World Report on Bangladesh' labelled “Bangladesh: Government Backtracks on Rights”, the English daily Newage reported that the National Human Rights Commission chairman, Dr. Mizanur Rahman, criticised the Human Rights Watch report on the ongoing war crimes trial.
Dr. Mizanur was reported as saying,‘It is very regretful as the HRW reported that human rights are violated through the tribunal proceedings,’ in reaction to the the annual report of New York-based Human Rights Watch released on Friday.
The Human Rights Watch report had said ,‘Bangladesh’s overall human rights situation worsened in 2012, as the government narrowed political and civil society space, shielded abusive security forces from accountability, and ignored calls to reform laws and procedures in flawed war crimes and mutiny trials. Flawed trials against those accused of war crimes in the 1971 war for independence continued.’
Talking at a seminar in the senate building in the University of Dhaka, he said, ‘The trial process of war criminals is the most humane in nature. We reject the report.’ He also criticised the article of the BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, published in the Washington Times, saying,‘Politicians of our country love power, not the country and humanity.’
Similar news was reported by online news portal banglanews24.com, which reported his remarks in a report entitled, "BD people against foreign interference: Dr Mizan". The prominent news daily, The Daily Star, choose to ignore it all and instead focused on the humanity in Dr. Mizan's mission, starting its report with "Speakers at a seminar yesterday urged the government to set a quota for Dalit students in public universities to ensure their higher studies." and ending it with "NHRC Chairman Dr Mizanur Rahman also addressed the seminar." in its rather unassuming report entitled "Set quota for Dalit students"
Dr. Mizanur was protesting contents of the HRW report regarding the International Crimes Tribunal. The Daily Star quoted the HRW report when it said, “Serious flaws in the laws and rules of procedure governing the trials of ICT have gone unaddressed, despite proposals from the US government and many international experts while flawed trials against the members of Bangladesh Rifles accused of mutiny in 2009 continued,”
The HRW report has further said that "Glaring violations of fair trial standards became apparent in 2012 in the trials of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a wholly domestic court set up to try those accused of war crimes during the 1971 war of independence." It substantiates these claims when it says,"All the ICT trials underway in 2012 were replete, with complaints from both the prosecution and defense. Each side accused the other of witness intimidation. In one apparently serious irregularity, the prosecution claimed that it was unable to produce several of its witnesses and asked that written statements be admitted as evidence, absent any direct or redirect examination. The court granted the request despite the fact that the defense produced government safe house logbooks which appeared to show that some of these witnesses had been in the safe house and available to testify. In one case, when on November 5 the defense attempted to bring one of these witnesses, Shukho Ranjan Bali, to court, he was abducted from the gates of the court house by police officers in a marked police van."
Delving into the contents of this report and examining the remarks of Dr. Mizan gives one the impression that via these remarks, the Chairman of the NHRC is just acting as a mouthpiece of the government instead of giving any credit to the serious questions posed by it. Its high time we cut through the emotional stigma surrounding these trials and address its controversial issues with the neutral mentality they deserve.