12:00 AM, July 19, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 19, 2010

Crimes Against Humanity

Tribunal targets fair trial

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Ashutosh Sarkar

The war crimes tribunal has announced the rules of procedure for probe, prosecution and trial.
Published in a gazette on July 15, the rules say the trial will start once formal charges are placed before the tribunal.
The prosecution will prepare charges on the basis of reports by the investigation agency, and submit those to the tribunal in the form of petitions.
Shahinur Rahman, registrar of the tribunal, presented the gazette at a press briefing at his office yesterday afternoon.
He said the tribunal can amend or modify the rules if necessary for fair trial of those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in 1971.
The rules shall be considered to have taken effect from March 25, the day the government formed the tribunal, prosecution panel and investigation agency for war crimes trial.
The three-member tribunal, instituted under International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, can try a person in his presence or absence.
The judges will take cognisance of an offence after examining the formal charge, investigation report, documents and evidence submitted by a prosecutor.
They may dismiss a case if they deem the evidence is not authentic or strong enough to warrant a trial.
If an investigation report appears to offer a weak case, the chief prosecutor may initiate further probe or just stop the process.
The rules of procedure, drawn up under section 22 of the international crimes act, have provisions to ensure the defendants’ access to counsel.
If an accused is not represented by anyone, the tribunal will appoint a lawyer for his defence at the government’s expense.
The tribunal may also allow a foreign counsel for either party, provided that the lawyer has permission from Bangladesh Bar Council.
After taking an offence into account, the judges will issue process or warrant.
“If the process is returned unserved, the tribunal shall make an order to publish a notice in two daily newspapers, one in English and another in Bangla, asking the accused to appear before it,” read the rules.
If the accused still fails to show up, the case against him will be tried in absentia.
The investigation officer may obtain a warrant from the tribunal for arrest of a person if he can satisfy the judges that such arrest is necessary for proper investigation.
Police will produce an accused before the tribunal within 24 hours of his arrest excluding the time needed for the journey.
On his appearance before the tribunal, an accused shall be sent to prison provided he is not on bail.
The court will proceed to hear the case on the basis of the probe report and documents and materials attached.
If there are sufficient reasons to presume that the accused has committed an offence, it will frame charges and ask him if he admits the offence.
If the accused admits he has committed the offence, his admission shall be recorded in his own words.
Upon his confession, the tribunal may convict him accordingly or may preserve the statement for consideration at the time of trial and pronouncement of judgment.
If the tribunal believes that someone has documents or things necessary for the trial, it can order him to produce those before it.
It may also draw proceedings against a person for obstructing or abusing the trial process and disobeying its orders or directions.
“The tribunal may, for ensuring fair justice, appoint one or more amicus curiae to assist it in a particular case,” state the rules.
The tribunal will be at liberty to admit any evidence oral or documentary, print or electronic including books, reports and photographs published in the newspapers, periodicals and magazines, films and tape recording and other materials.

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