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Press briefing notes on Bangladesh

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 8 April 2016

We are concerned about the latest death sentences handed down against two men by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal, particularly given continued concerns in relation to international due process and fair trial standards.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami opposition party, has filed a review petition against his death warrant, due to be heard on Sunday, 10 April, following a one-week deferral. This is the last stage of the legal process in appealing against his execution, other than to seek a presidential pardon, and we hope it will be considered thoroughly by the court. Nizami was sentenced to death on charges of planning, ordering and committing murders and rapes, among other serious crimes during the 1971 war of independence. Last month, on 8 March, the Supreme Court also upheld the death sentence against Mir Quasem Ali, another Jamaat-e-Islami leader. Mir Quasem Ali had been sentenced to death in November 2014 by the same tribunal.

Since its inception in 2010, the Tribunal has delivered at least 17 verdicts, the majority of which have resulted in the imposition of the death penalty. So far, four men have been executed.

The UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, no matter the gravity of the crime committed and even if the most stringent fair trial standards were respected. While recognising Bangladesh’s determination to tackle past crimes, the trials conducted before the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal have unfortunately not met international standards of fair trial and due process as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Serious due process problems, which have been repeatedly raised by various UN independent experts, include lack of adequate access to legal assistance and a lack of equality of arms between the prosecution and the defence, among other issues.

We renew our call to the Government of Bangladesh to respect its obligations under the ICCPR, to which it acceded in 2000. Article 14 of the ICCPR details the right to a fair trial. The imposition of a death sentence following a trial in which these provisions have not been respected constitutes a violation of the right to life.

Bangladesh reportedly has more than 1,200 prisoners on death row. In the month of March this year alone, at least 13 people were reportedly sentenced to death in separate murder cases in four districts in Bangladesh.

We renew our call to the Government of Bangladesh, as a first step forward, to halt all executions and institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

We are also alarmed by the violent killing of yet another blogger in Bangladesh. High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has urged the Government to take urgent, concerted measures to ensure the protection of all those who are being threatened by extremists operating in the country. We call on political and religious leaders to unequivocally condemn such murders, and on the authorities to swiftly investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.


For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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