Prosecution and Defence Clash Over Standards of Procedural Fairness at the Bangladesh International Criminal Tribunal

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By Caroline Macpherson

During the 11th session of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) convened a side event on “The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal” (ICT) on 21 November 2012 at the World Forum.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the current challenges faced by the ICT in fulfilling its mandate through an independent, fair and impartial judicial process. The meeting was moderated by NPWJ Secretary-General, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, and speakers included: Advasiful Islam, Prosecutor at the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal; Schona Jolly, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales; Ahmed Ziauddin, Professor of International Criminal Law; Mr. Rayhan Rashid from the International Crimes Strategy Forum and Oxford University; and Toby Cadman, Defence Counsel from 9 Bedford Row.

Toby Cadman provides a detailed overview in his paper, The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Complementarity and National Prosecutions- The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh, which touches upon, inter alia: lack of transparency; discriminatory intent of the legislation and tribunal; lack of clear definitions of crimes; absence of rules of disclosure; and investigations being conducted under a cloak of secrecy.

A statement entitled Their Backup is million dollar but 3,000,000 is our force was released by members of the International Crimes Strategy Forum following the conference. This statement claims that Toby Cadman’s statements were all false.

Following the conference, NPWJ issued a press release which called on the ICT urgently “to demonstrate its ability and willingness to conduct proceedings with fairness, impartiality and strict adherence to due process and to apply the highest international standards in the enforcement of crimes under international law”. Further, it requested the Government of Bangladesh “immediately and categorically to exclude the death penalty for individuals accused by the ICT and apply in full all due process guarantees, including protection of defence witnesses, potential witnesses and counsel from harassment and intimidation, full application of the presumption of innocence, and all other due process rights, to the highest international standards.”

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