12:00 AM, February 13, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 13, 2013

Justice need not be politically acceptable

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While I understand the reaction of The Daily Star and the Shahbagh protesters to the announcement of a life sentence for Abdul Quader Mollah, there is a way it can be seen as a positive, namely proof of tribunal independence.
One of the concerns with the war crimes tribunals was a potential political factor. Being as they were set up by an AL-led government and the list of accused consisted only of key leaders of a political rival, it was easy to believe the result could be automatic death penalties all the way down the line under the pretence of fair trials. In this case the judges clearly seem to have acted independently in deciding a sentence based only on the evidence presented to them at the tribunal, which is all the verdict should be based on. That process should be supported and strengthened.
The protests at Shahbagh should focus on safeguarding the system of independent judiciary that made this verdict possible, not in changing the verdict itself. In a democracy, the people have their say through their elected representatives and the laws they pass. The judiciary interpret those laws along with the evidence presented, but should not take public opinion into account, otherwise the notion of a fair trial is violated. Everyone, even accused war criminals, is entitled to a fair trial.
I fear the massive outpouring of public opinion may lead the government to try and pressure the tribunal to only come up with “politically acceptable” sentences in the name of the Bangladeshi people. This would tarnish the very democracy the protesters are trying to protect.
Justice cannot be delivered in a political backroom, or via the streets, it can only be found in a courtroom.
Neil Taylor, On e-mail

I see children on the snapshots of Shahbagh. Do the parents think that it is a good idea to tell their minor sons and daughters to call for hanging people? Yes, it is time to bring the war criminals to justice. And yes, according to the law, the crimes can be punished with death penalty. But no, the culture of killing is not that of saving human rights. Privately I met a lot of people in Bangladesh telling me that they are against death penalty and executions. But why do they forget it when it becomes concrete?
Bernhard Hertlein
Bielefeld, Germany

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