Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Another Tribunal Leaks: Will the World care???

It has now transpired that the verdict to be delivered today by the Tribunal against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was prepared in the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs.  A copy of the verdict that is to be delivered today by the International Crimes Tribunal-1 was recovered from a computer in the office of the Secretary-in-Charge of the Ministry of Law of Parliamentary Affairs, Abu Saleh Sheikh Zahirul Haque. What is more surprising is that the verdict was being drafted from 23 May, 2013, when the prosecution was still examining its witnesses.

A total of 23 charges were framed against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury in relation to offences committed during the liberation war of 1971.  The prosecution produced witnesses in relation to 17 of the charges. From the copy of the verdict obtained from the Ministry of Law, it appears that Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was found guilty of 9 of the charges and acquitted of 8 of charges.

No witness was produced in relation to  6 of the 23 charges and as such Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was also acquitted of all 6 of these charges.

The 9 of the 17 charges on which Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was guilty are  i) Charge No.2 (Maddhaya Gohira genocide), ii) Charge No.3 (Murder of Nutun Chandra Singha), iii) Charge No.4 (Genocide at Jogotmollopara) iv) Charge No.5 (Murder of Nepal Chandra and three others), v) Charge No.6 (Genocide at Unsuttarpara), vi) Charge  No.7 (Killing of Satish Chandra Palit, vii) Charge No.8 (Killing of Mozaffar and his son, viii) Charge No. 17 (abduction and torture of Nizamuddin Ahmed) and ix) Charge No. 18 (abduction and torture of Saleh Uddin).

The file containing the verdict was found in the D Drive of a computer located at the 6th floor of the Secretariat Building of the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs. In this drive there was a folder entitled ‘Alam’ within which there was a subfolder ‘Different Courts n Post Creation’ within which there was another subfolder titled ‘War Crimes Triubunal’. In this subfolder there was yet another subfolder titled ‘Chief Prosecutor – War Tribunal’. This subfolder contained a file titled ‘saka final – 1’ which contained the draft verdict against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury. When the verdict was finalised the name of the file was changed from ‘saka final – 1’ to ‘ICT BD Case NO. 02 of 2011 (Delivery of Judgment) (Final)’.

The folder titled ‘Alam’ belongs to a computer operator (by the same name) of the Secretary in Charge of the Ministry of Law.

The properties section of the file containing the verdict shows that work on the verdict began on 23 May, 2013 at 12.01 in the morning, when the examination of prosecution witnesses was still going on. The file size is 167 KB and contains 164 pages. The verdict has been prepared over 2587 minutes.

The copy of the verdict obtained from the Ministry of Law evidences the Tribunal’s dissatisfaction with the attitude of Salahuddin Quader Chowdury. The Tribunal noted that  Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury never rose from his seat when the Tribunal exited and that he would directly addressed judges as either Chairman Sahib or Member Sahib.

Download the report:

But wait.......

We aren't even surprised anymore. The world has had enough gawking at the expense of this tribunal. It started as early back as mid December 2012 when the Economist published "Skypegate" scandal first broke onto the scene. In a first reaction, the presiding tribunal judge was forced to resign. In any other country such serious allegations would have materialized into the abortion of such politically motivated show trials. In any other country, the law would have had checks and balances. But this was apparently not to be, as the judges gave death sentences on whimsical impulses, politicians changed laws in the middle of the trial processes and prosecution turned defence witnesses disappeared mysteriously without a trace, only to reappear even more mysteriously detained in a neighboring country. 

Human rights organisations and watchdogs are like barking dogs. They seldom bite. The repeated calls by organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international fell on deaf ears as the government of Bangladesh proceeded on with the show trials, emboldened by the fact that no body actually cared for the fact that the trials in Bangladesh repeatedly violated international standards or that anybody who spoke out, whether newspaper editors, human rights activists or politicians, were jailed or simply ceased to exist, courtesy of extra-judicial killings by forces such as the little discussed elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).    

So what can the verdict be:

Where the same panel of muppets decreed that veteran politician Abdul Kader Mollah be hanged based on a loosely garnered charge no. 6 against the uncorroborated testimony of a 13 year old, it is foolish to expect anything less than a death verdict. We wait for exuberant animal calls from Shahbag and angry retorts from the BNP camp. Jamaat and Shibir can lay back and watch the show for now to check whether BNP is anything more than a tape recorder playing blaring music.

Never mind that this was a draft copy. It can easily be altered any time. We shall probably find out an alternatively worded copy read by the judges today. But the verdict simply points out the mindset of the tribunal. It was institution created to prove selected ones guilty, even if innocent. 

Recent opinion polls also give us a notion as to the public perception of the tribunal and trials in question. In the first poll undertaken by Org-Quest Research Ltd commissioned by Prothom Alo last February (It was never published - apparently because it was considered too sensitive) 43% supported the demand that Molla be given the death penalty and 55% were against it, (supporting either life imprisonment, a shorter level of imprisonment or acquittal). 2% had refused to answer. When the results were considered in terms of whether they lives - 63% of urban residents compared with 37 percent of those living in rural areas supported the sentence of hanging. This would suggest that there a death penalty decision is not widely popular in Bangladesh, though a significant minority do support it.

The second opinion poll, undertaken by Nielsen/Democracy International in April 2013 - subsequent not only to Molla's verdict and the pro-hanging Shahbag protests but also the ICT ruling imposing a death penalty against Sayedee showed that when those who knew about the tribunals were asked about the fairness of the process, 63% thought that the trials were unfair or very unfair and 31% though they were fair. Those who thought that the trials were not fair divided into 41% who stated that were simply 'unfair' and 22% who that the trials were ‘very’ unfair. 

In this choreographed show of the survival of the fittest and beastly game of political annihilation, this is no more a quest for justice. Shut down this farce. Shut down this tribunal.


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