Paulo Casaca is the Founder and Executive director of the “South Asia Democratic Forum”. He was Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (PSE) from 1999 to 2009. Mr. Casaca worked as a team leader of a report commissioned by the US based NGO Committee to Study the Organisation of Peace “A Green Ray over Iraq” presented to the United Nations last March. Mr. Casaca recently visited Bangladesh and attended in couple of seminars including a seminar on “Genocide, Human Rights and Justice “organised by the Liberation War Museum of Bangladesh. Md. Golam Sarwar from Law Desk talks with him on the following issues.
Law Desk (LD): How would you view the concept of Genocide, Human Rights and Justice in the context of Bangladesh?
Paulo Casaca (PC): The three concepts are bound together. Bangladesh was born out of Genocide, and as long as it remains unpunished, the whole fabric of a state of law where human dignity stands at its core is jeopardised. Bangladesh national war of liberation makes part of the new generation of such movements that came into being after the European colonial era. It was a direct consequence of a totalitarian vision that smashed the cultural identity of one people.
LD: After 42 years of independence the country is exploring the culture beyond impunity by convicting and executing the war criminals, how would you see this?
PC: I hope very much that now the time has come to do it. It is late, but better late than never. Only on the basis of justice is it possible to envisage peace and reconciliation. Any solution that is not based in justice is bound to cause the repetition of the phenomena that managed to go by in impunity.
I think Bangladesh has a quite advanced judicial system with bright and competent professionals at its base that are making a very good job in face of a formidable multi-million dollar international campaign in favour of impunity.
I think that even those who had a negative position in the beginning but have honestly observed the development of the trial have a positive impression on the way it has done its work. Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador at Large of the US for War Crimes Issues, duly concluded after three visits to the country that: “We have full trust in the good intentions of ICT prosecutors and judges. I think these are enough for fair justice.” (BDST, May, 02, 2011).
But in spite of the opinions of honest, serious and experienced people like Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp – which are really to take note of if we take in consideration the severe political bias of the State Department in favour of Muslim Brotherhood – the campaign to denigrate the Bangladeshi judicial system has been overwhelming.
As I have been stressing, organisations that have demonstrated their lack of respect for human rights, like Human Rights Watch, has been crucial in this campaign for impunity of the genocide perpetrators.
LD: How would you define the execution of death penalty in case of war criminals?
PC: Let me tell you very clearly that I am against death penalty in all circumstances and I have been through all my life, since when I initiated an Amnesty International local group in the Azores archipelago in Portugal.
I think we have two distinct issues here. One is the call of the Shabagh movement for the culprits of genocide to be applied the maximum existing penalty, and I do subscribe to their plight without restrictions. The other is the existence of death penalty in Bangladesh, in the US and elsewhere, and here my position remains what it ever was.
LD: Despite continuous warnings from Superpowers and International Agencies the Government of Bangladesh hanged a war criminal Quader Mullah, what would be your comment in this regard?
PC: I regret the way some major powers as the United States are interfering in the present issue, the way they are doing, and there are several reasons this is regrettable.
The first is that the US have actually someone very competent, someone who studied the issue thoroughly, someone who is actually in charge of the process – Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp, and they should let the issue to remain a human rights and state of law issue and so let it be dealt with by him.
The second is that the US have special historic responsibilities on what happened in 1971, and they should be more concerned to take lessons on their inaction at that time than to give lessons to others.
The third is that this is in complete contrast with what they did on Iraq less than ten years ago. Shall we forget the US authorities handled Saddam Hussein to the Iraqi government for him to be hanged, just to quote the most well-known case of co-operation with the capital punishment of a political leader?
About International agencies, it is really difficult to understand that organisations like Human Rights Watch that either stand silent or made formal but insincere protests when those who campaign for impunity for Genocide perpetrators murder members of minorities, normal citizens or witnesses who gave evidence in the ICT, campaign near daily for the Genocide perpetrators lives.
If one contrast the way HRW covered the persecution of crimes against humanity in Iraq and Bangladesh we see how scandalously partisan to human rights is the approach of this organisation.
Whereas there is no possible comparison between the due process of law in Bangladesh with the savage rule prevailing in Iraq, the contrast between the apologetic style used by HRW in Iraq and the high gear propaganda against the judicial authorities in Bangladesh is flashing.
HRW was the organisation that more openly made propaganda for the invasion of Iraq – it even created an obligation to intervene that should be applicable to Iraq but nowhere else – and excelled ever after in covering most of the abuses against human rights done in this country, but in Bangladesh, it stands exactly for the opposite of what it did in Iraq.
The manipulation of human rights by political or commercial objectives is a disgrace and should be tolerated by no one.
LD: How would you explain the judicial accomplishment in the latest case of Quader Mullah?
PC: Regarding the judicial decision on Mr Kader Mullah, I think there is plenty of evidence explaining why the Bangladeshi judicial authorities considered appropriate to sentence him to the maximum penalty, and I do not understand how we can put this decision in question.
As I explained, I would like to see the day that death penalty will no longer be used in any country or situation, but I fail to understand why this concern should be raised now and not in other circumstances.
I think that the increase in the rate of the terrorist activities of the genocide perpetrators on the wake of the execution of this criminal does not prove that impunity is the best solution but quite on the contrary, it proves that impunity is the worse solution in the long run.
LD: Thank you indeed.