The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, issued the following statement today:
Geneva, 30 August 2007: The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers wishes to express his concern concerning the proceedings of the trial of Ms. Sigma Huda, lawyer and Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. On 27 August 2007, the Special Anti Corruption Court of Bangladesh sentenced Ms. Huda to 3 years imprisonment for aiding and abetting extortion found to have been committed by her husband.
The Special Rapporteur received information indicating that the right to legal representation and the independence of the court were severely affected during her trial. According to these reports, defense lawyers felt pressured. They had no opportunity to visit her in prison and could only meet with her at the end of the hearings. They also had difficulties accessing the case files and other relevant information, thus compromising their ability to ensure an adequate defence. The atmosphere during the trial was reportedly intimidating, with military and police presence both outside and inside the courtroom, and access of the public and the media to the courtroom was considerably restricted.
The Special Rapporteur is concerned by these alleged irregularities which would amount to a violation of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Bangladesh. Against this background, the Special Rapporteur calls upon the Bangladesh authorities to ensure the right of Ms Sigma Huda to a fair and public trial during any ensuing appeal process.