DHAKA: US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged on Friday the Bangladesh government to halt the executions of two opposition leaders convicted of war crimes.
Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the final appeals by two opposition leaders, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, against the death penalty for atrocities committed during the 1971 war.
“Justice and accountability for the terrible crimes committed during ... (the) war are crucial, but trials need to meet international fair trial standards,” said Brad Adams, the HRW’s director for Asia.
“Unfair trials can’t provide real justice, especially when the death penalty is imposed,” he said in a statement, adding the sentences should be suspended immediately.
Mujahid, secretary general of the Jamaat-i-Islami, was found guilty of charges including torture and murder while he commanded Al Badr during the war.
Chowdhury, former legislator from former premier Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was convicted in 2013 on charges of genocide, religious persecution, abduction and torture during the war.
The rulings mean the men, who say they are innocent, could be hanged at any time unless they seek mercy from the president.
Two Jamaat leaders have been executed so far, one in December 2013 and another in April. They declined to seek clemency.
The condemned men’s families have repeated accusations by opposition parties that the trials are being used as a political tool by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who opened an inquiry in 2010 into abuses committed during the war. The government denies the accusations.
Mujahid, social welfare minister from 2001 to 2006 under Khaleda, would be the first former minister to be hanged for war crimes in Bangladesh, while Chowdhury would be the first BNP leader to go to the gallows.
“It is up to them whether they want to seek mercy or not,” defence counsel Khandaker Mahbub Hossain told reporters.
Ganajagoron Mancha, a group of youth activists who vocally support the war crimes trials, on Friday called for the swift implementation of the verdict.
“We will not go home until they are hanged,” said Imran H. Sarker, a spokesman.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2015