Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized Bangladesh [press release] on Thursday for offering retroactive amendments that change war crime laws to allow plaintiffs to appeal verdicts delivered by the nation's International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) [JURIST news archive]. The amendments were approved in response to days of protests [JURIST reports] that ensued after Abdul Quader Mollah, the leader of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [party website] party, was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] for convictions including murder, rape and torture—a decision which the demonstrators assert is too lenient. HRW Asia Director Brad Adams denounced the retroactive amendments as a cynical ploy by the government to disregard unfavorable court decisions:
Justice for victims of war crimes and other serious abuses during the 1971 war of liberation is essential. But a government supposedly guided by the rule of law cannot simply pass retroactive laws to overrule court decisions when it doesn't like them. The Bangladesh government should pause, take a deep breath, and repeal the proposed amendments, which make a mockery of the trial process.HRW also called on security forces in Bangladesh to restrict their use of deadly force to situations in which it is absolutely necessary.
Mollah's sentence was the latest to be handed down for war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War (BLW) [advocacy website]. Last week, UN officials expressed concern over a death sentence [JURIST reports] that was handed down last month against Abul Kalam Azad, another former leader of JI, for similar war crimes. Both Azad and Mollah's sentences were handed down by Bangladesh's ICT, which was established in March 2010 specifically to hear cases involving war crimes during the BLW.