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UN human rights experts urge Bangladesh to stop the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah

GENEVA (9 December 2013) – Two United Nations human rights experts have urged the Government of Bangladesh to halt the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah,  who was sentenced to death on 17 September by the country’s Supreme Court. The ruling, issued by the country’s highest court, cannot be appealed.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, and on summary executions, Christof Heyns, expressed great concern about information according to which Mr. Mollah’s death sentence could be executed as early as Tuesday, 10 December 2013.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh condemned Mr. Mollah to death after the Prosecution appealed the decision of the International Crimes Tribunal condemning him to life imprisonment.

The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal is a special domestic court with the jurisdiction and competence to try and punish any person accused of committing atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, in Bangladesh, including during the country’s 1971 independence war.

“The right of appeal is of particular importance in death penalty cases,” Special Rapporteur Knaul stressed.

“Anyone convicted of a crime has the right to have his or her conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal, as laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Bangladesh is a party,” she said. “This provision is violated where a court of final instance imposes a harsher sentence that cannot be reviewed.”

The independent experts also reiterated their concerns that the defendant was not granted a fair trial.

“In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, capital punishment may be imposed only following a trial that complied with fair trial and due process safeguards,” Special Rapporteur Heyns noted.

“Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a Government’s international obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution,” Mr. Heyns underlined. “Only full respect for stringent due process guarantees distinguishes capital punishment as possibly permitted under international law from a summary execution, which by definition violates human rights standards.”

The UN Special Rapporteurs cautioned that “under such circumstances, the execution of Mr. Mollah could trigger further violence and unrest that has been agitating the country in the recent months.”

Judicial proceedings are underway in several other cases before the International Crimes Tribunal and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court and there is a risk that the defendants could also be sentenced to death and executed after trials that did not uphold the most stringent fair trial and due process guarantees.

The UN Special Rapporteurs called for all the defendants before the Tribunal, including the Appellate Division, to receive fair trials.

Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Mr. Heyns’ research interests include international human rights law and human rights law in Africa. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Bangladesh: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/BDIndex.aspx

For additional information and media requests, please contact: Amanda Flores (+41 22 917 91 86 / aflores@ohchr.org) or write to srindependence@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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