Halt Quader Mollah’s execution: HRW
Human Rights Watch has asked Bangladesh government to immediately stay the death sentence against condemned convict Abdul Qader Mollah due to fair trial concerns.
Mollah should be granted a right to appeal against the conviction and death sentence, said a statement of the New York-based rights organisation issued today.
“Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an irreversible, degrading, and cruel punishment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch in the statement.
“It is particularly reprehensible in cases where laws were retroactively passed in order to enable the death penalty, and where the right to appeal against such a final judgment is not allowed,” he added.
On February 5, Mollah was sentenced to life in prison by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a domestic court holding trials for the atrocities in Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Liberation, the statement said.
He was convicted on five of six counts, including murder and rape as crimes against humanity and war crimes while being acquitted on one count of murder.
In response to large public protests demanding the death sentence for Mollah, the government passed amendments to the ICT law on February 17, allowing the prosecution to appeal the sentence.
Until the Mollah case, the prosecution was only allowed to appeal if the accused was acquitted.
On September 17, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court reversed the life sentence on Mollah and imposed the death penalty for murder and rape as crimes against humanity.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bangladesh is a state party, prohibits the retroactive application of criminal law that has a negative effect on the defence, the HRW said.
Although people sentenced to death in Bangladesh in regular courts are allowed the right to appeal, government authorities, including the attorney general, stated that Mollah has no such right and have insisted that Mollah exhausted all legal options.
The only recourse left open to Mollah, according to government authorities, is to appeal to the president for clemency.
The ICCPR states that everyone convicted of a crime has the right to have their conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.
“Human Rights Watch has long supported justice and accountability for the horrific crimes that occurred in 1971, but we have also stated repeatedly that these trials must meet the highest standards in order to properly deliver on those promises for the victims,” Adams said.
“Hanging Mollah on the basis of retroactive legislation and then denying him the right to appeal against this sentence is a grave violation of his fundamental rights,” he further said in the statement.