12:00 AM, February 11, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 11, 2013

Change law to try Jamaat

Demand gets louder as govt sits today on amending war crimes trial act

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Ashutosh Sarkar

The government tables today a proposal for amending the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973 to provide for appeal against inadequate sentence in war crimes cases.
Finalised yesterday, the proposal also envisages hearing and disposal of an appeal within 60 days from the date of its filing with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
There is no mention of time limit in the law for disposing of the appeal in the cases involving the crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War in 1971.
Interpreting the proposed amendment, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told The Daily Star yesterday that the Appellate Division will dispose of an appeal within 45 days from the date of its filing. If the apex court still cannot complete the disposal, it will get another 15 days.
He said any appeal against an ICT verdict has to be filed with the Supreme Court within 30 days from the date of delivery of the verdict as per the existing provision.
Earlier in the day, Shafique Ahmed told reporters at his office in Bangladesh Secretariat that a bill will be placed before parliament within a week if the cabinet approves the proposed amendment.
He hoped the House will pass the bill in its current session.
The government, any aggrieved person or victim can file appeal against inadequate sentence or acquittal order given by the tribunal to any accused, as per the proposed amendment.
Replying to a question, the minister said as per the proposed amendment, the government can file an appeal with the SC against the ICT-2 verdict that awarded Jamaat-e Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah life term.
The amendment will be given retrospective effect from September 25 last year.
Eminent writer and journalist Shahriar Kabir told The Daily Star that a provision has to be included in the ICT law for trying Jamaat-e-Islami that led the heinous crimes like genocide, killings, rapes, lootings and arsons during the war.
If the party is not tried and punished, the present government will face serious danger, he said.
The noted campaigner added that seven political parties including Nazi party were tried and punished in the Nuremberg trial as war criminal organisations and their properties were confiscated.
The International Crimes Tribunal-2 verdict, which awarded life term imprisonment to Jamaat leader Quader Mollah without giving any directive about his future politics, is not acceptable at all, he said.
“We want death sentence for Quader Mollah,” he said, adding that the properties of Jamaat-e Islami have to be confiscated.
A prominent jurist requesting anonymity told The Daily Star that as per the constitution's article 47 (3), there is no bar to trying the political organisations under which the crimes were committed during the Liberation War.
Asked about the trial of the political parties, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told The Daily Star yesterday he might discuss the issue during today's cabinet meeting.
Before finalising the proposal for amending the ICT law, Shafique along with State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam held a meeting with some legal experts at his office yesterday.
The experts included former High Court judges Justice Syed Amirul Islam, Justice Zaki Ebadul Huq, Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury and Justice MA Rashid, Law Commission acting chairman Prof Shah Alam, National Human Rights Commission Chairman Prof Mizanur Rahman, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and Additional Attorney General MK Rahman.
The original law of 1973 had no provision for the government to appeal against any verdict in war crimes cases.
In 2009, the law was amended to give the government the right to appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court against a war crimes verdict in the event of “an order of acquittal”.
But the government, which represents the victims in the crimes against humanity cases, did not have the right to appeal against an inadequate sentence.
The defence, however, enjoys the right to appeal against any “conviction and sentence” in both the original and the amended law.
This difference in the rights to appeal has come to the fore following the verdict in Quader Mollah's case on February 5.
Hours after the verdict was delivered, people from all walks of life started non-stop demonstrations at Shahbagh intersection, demanding death penalty to Mollah.
The law minister said the decision to amend the law has been taken to fulfil the expectations of people, he said, adding that amending the laws is a continuous process.
The government has taken steps to amend the ICT act to ensure equal right of the government, aggrieved persons and victims and the accused, he added.

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