There have been quite a few conniving and morally denigrating articles that have been published against International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh but perhaps the one penned by Saudi Arab’s Al-Ghamdi eclipses all of them. In this race to the bottom, Al-Ghamdi’s article not only lacked proper depth and perception, his use of the English words were appalling, rendering the article void of any structure or rigidity. The continuous usage of obscene words painted the picture of a man whose knowledge in International Criminal Law is next to zero.
So you may ask, why am I even bothering to write a rebuttal to Al Ghamdi’s article titled “For what sin did Bangladesh hang Mir Quasem Ali?”, which was published on the 7th of September inside the Saudi Gazette. Well firstly because I have a conscience. Secondly, being an active researcher on the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh, I am always on high alert if there are individuals or entities looking to instigate false propaganda or promote baseless arguments. And lastly it is my duty to admonish each and every one of these propagandas, no matter how small and pathetic the attempt might be.
According to the information provided at the bottom end of his article, Al Ghamdi is apparently a Saudi diplomat, a Ph.D degree holder, and a lecturer of a University. But sadly it seems Mr Ghamdi lacks the proper amount of tact and a filter for that matter, when it comes to writing articles about a free, sovereign nation and the highest echelon of its legal system.
Perhaps he was not taught how to approach things like that in Saudi Arabia, (which is probably not surprising). Saudi Arabia is a nation which is devoid of any democracy, a country dominated by authoritarian rulers, where women are beaten and subjugated in every possible manner, where the rate of literacy is negligible, a country which only afloat because it just so happens to be sitting on top of a few barrels of oil. Ghamdi’s country believes in the eye for eye, a death for a death rule. Nobody is concerned with justice back there. There is no justice back there.
So it is not surprising at all that the words coming out of a diplomat hailing from Saudi Arabia, are of such deplorable quality. So it is wishful thinking to expect anything civilized from the citizen of a country where barbarism is so deeply entrenched it is considered to be the norm, with a viable justice system seemingly non-existent there. Vox report describes Saudi’s justice system in their article “Why Saudi Arabia still has public beheading” where they wrote-
a Burmese woman in Saudi Arabia who’d been convicted of abusing and murdering her step-daughter met Saudi justice: police dragged her through a street in Mecca and held her down as, in full public view, she was gruesomely beheaded. When a clandestine recording leaked to YouTube (it has since been pulled), the Saudi government defended its latest public beheading as necessary to “implement the rulings of God,” warning any who might commit a similar crime that “the rightful punishment is their fate.”
This execution, Saudi Arabia’s 10th in January alone, is representative of the country’s extreme and often horrifying justice system. Those practices have come under renewed international attention over Saudi blogger Raef Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, carried out over 20 weeks, for speaking up in defense of atheists and ridiculing religious figures. The story of why and how Saudi Arabia’s justice system became so notoriously barbaric is more complicated than you might think.
Thus it is sad when an individual hailing from such a nation, resorts to criticize the decisions taken by the supreme court of a country, and does so with such blatant prejudice.
Mr Ghamdi even failed to refer to the tribunal, the main topic of concern in his article, by its proper name. He kept referring to it as the “International War Crime Court”, when it is properly known as the “International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh”. You would expect a diplomat, a university lecturer of a country to at least get his facts right. And yet Al Ghamdi has dedicated an entire article to discuss a topic, which he could not even refer to properly.
An entire legion of prophets have come and gone in Saudi Arabia. Where they along with the word of God have failed to change its people, perhaps it is foolish to think that a lawyer like me will do any better. Till today the Saudi national flag is ablaze with the violent insignia of a sword. As such what more can we possibly expect from its citizens?
Ghamdi repeatedly referred to the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh as a “mock trial”. But does the man actually know what a “mock trial” denotes? For arguments sake let’s say that he used the words “mock trial” to imply that the tribunal is a farce or the way its proceeding are being conducted is substandard. But this prominent phrase of Mr Ghamdi’s has clearly demonstrated the woeful amount of knowledge he actually possesses in this subject.
After hours of depositions, questions and investigations, the highest court of law in Bangladesh found Mir Quasem guilty and punished him with a death penalty. But the way Al Ghamdi laments Mir Quasem’s fate in his article is well and truly surprising, even bizarre.
He claims that Mir Quasem always indulged himself in various philanthropic activities providing detailed descriptions on his work for the Rohingas, in an attempt to hoodwink the people of Bangladesh into sympathizing with a criminal like Mir Quasem. No, what is actually surprising is the absence of even the tiniest of mentions regarding the atrocities Mir Quasem committed during the 1971 liberation war. That is what is lamentable.
In fact the amount of biasness demonstrated and the amount knowledge and depth Al Ghamdi possesses, is well evident from one of the paragraphs from his article provided below,
“Moreover, the family of the person whom Mir Quasem was accused of killing did not charge Mir Quasem with murder for 40 years. How did the family discover after 40 years that Mir Quasem killed their son? Is this not strange and difficult to believe?”
This paragraph alone is enough to prove that Al Ghamdi knows nothing about Bangladesh, or perhaps he pretends not to. Even the most passive reader or the most oblivious of individuals would expect a person to possess at least a modicum of knowledge about the history and culture of a country he or she wishes to discuss about in his writings, especially if said person is a former diplomat. And yet time and again Al Ghamdi has demonstrated the exact opposite of what is expected, in this article of his.
The fact that Mir Quasem was a member of the murderous Chatro Shongho (which is now known as Jamat Shibir, the Student wing of Jamat e Islam) in Chittagong, and consequently the leader of the notorious Al Bodor group, was actually confirmed by the “Daily Shongram newspaper”, which was a mouth piece for the Jamat back then.
Convicted wartime criminal Golam Azam, himself wrote about him in a column on the 21st of June 1971. Of course even then they could not have predicted that the Bangladeshi freedom fighters will be victorious, openly preaching their ideals without respite. And after all these years, these things have served to prove all their past wrongdoings allowed us to see the light, to understand what really happened.
It was this Mir Quasem who led the inhumane torture on the tenants of the Dalim Hotel in Chittagong, all of whom believed in and craved independence. Many he left with crippling disability, some he left emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives. Even young freedom fighter Jashim was not spared as he brutally perished at the hands of Mir Quasem and his band of murderers, his only fault being that he wanted Bangladesh’s independence.
Does Mr Ghamdhi know all this? Did he even bother to find out? Forget the history, did the man even bother to read the verdict reached by the Apex court or the Appellate Division for that matter regarding the matter of Mir Quasem? Did he even bother to read a word on the investigations conducted in the Mir Quasem case, before making such one sided statements?
Nevertheless, the fact remains that there were a whole host of eyewitnesses to the Dalim hotel incident, at least those who survived the horrors of that day anyway. They all recounted the barbarity the cruelty of the incident in their statements against murderer Mir Quasem. Those who suffered at his hands all those years ago but left helpless because of the perpetual volatility of Bangladesh’s political system, were finally able reveal those untold horror in full view of the world, in front of the tribunal.
The death of the father of the nation Bangabandhu (Friends of Bengali People) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman coincided with the rapid deterioration of Bangladesh’s politics. The country came to be ruled by the very individuals who opposed freedom and sovereignty in 1971, came to be governed murderers and rapists who traversed openly in broad daylight, their chests puffed and heads held high. War time criminals and murderers like Salauddin Quader, Anwar Jahid and Maulana Mannan were assumed responsibility as MPs. In fact Matiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahmed Md Mujahid shamelessly paraded around the flag of Bangladesh, towards the end of the 90s.
Given the political clout these murderers boasted at the time, can we not see why nobody would dare cross them? Can we not see why that they risked being vulnerable if they did? No Bangladeshi government up until 2009 of course, showed their willingness to file any cases against them.
Al Ghamdi has seemingly ignored that these victims, they were forced to bide their time, forced to wait for justice until the opportunity finally came when on the 25th of March 2010, when the trials finally went underway in a capable, independent court of law.
So consequently, the victims and their family members finally made official complaints on the back of the inauguration of the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh. Does Mr Ghamdi not see this? Surely he is not that naive!
Further down his article Mr Ghamdi argues that there were no cases filed against Mir Quasem based under the “collaborator trial 1972” [well known term of that trial though the correct name of that law is Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunal) Order 1972], and that the 195 members of the Pakistan army were released and so forth. Ghamdi also states that during the tenure of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from 1972 till 1975, those tried and tested in the tribunal then were not formally charged or had any other complaints brought against them.
Now this lie is as blatant as they come, and is an attempt to spread discord, generate horrific propaganda.
After 1971 there was a case filed against Golam Azam and there were cases filed against Kamaruzzaman, Chowdhury Mueennuddin, Ashrafuzzaman, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, razakar Yousuf. Quader Molla was arrested on charges of collaborator act 1972. Delowar Hossain Saeedi was jailed. Nizami, Mir Quasem, Ali Ahsan Md Mujahid and many others were fugitives. It was not just in 2010 that there were complaints made against these criminals.
After the brutal murder of Bangabandhu in 1975, the then Mushtaque Ahmed’s government ceased the war trials, an act behind which the then army chief Ziaur Rahman (7th November 1975 to February 1979) played a key role in. And from then on in 1981, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992 the people of Bangladesh would stop and start in their desires to write, gather in protests and clamour for decisiveness, for conviction in hope that something, anything would bring these recognised war criminals to justice.
In 1992, about 24 years ago now, War time criminal Golam Azam was convicted and handed a death penalty in a public court, (famously known as Gono Adalat) organized by the masses and led by Jahanara Imam. It was one of the most tumultuous moments in Bangladesh’s history.
So evidently the people of Bangladesh have been vocal, they’ve been conscious about war crimes and those who committed them, and their resolve has lasted decade after decade till today. So how can Mr Al Ghamdi claim that our desire to seek justice after 45 years, is just an impulse or involuntary action?
When in truth Saudi Arabia played a key role in halting the war trials in 1975. It was Saudi Arabia who provided help and support to the genocidal Pakistani army during the liberation war in Bangladesh. So in others, the then Saudi king should have all been held accountable of all those atrocities committed during the liberation war.
At every corner, at every turn these unholy entities have always done something to derail the ICTBD, but usually they achieved their purposes by manufacturing political uncertainty. For instance Mostafa, who was a key witness against Sayeedi, was murdered in the dead of night. Similarly Wahidul Alam Junu, witness number 19 against Saluddin Quader Chowdhury, was also murdered. Miraz , the brother of Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul was victim of a revenge killing, being a witness against Golam Azam.
The houses of Judge Surendra Kumar Sinha, Judge Zahir and Judge Jahangir were bombed by terrorists. After the Sayeedi trials reached a verdict, Sayeedi’s followers started venting their frustration out on the common innocent citizens of Bangladesh, resorting to lethally assault the police and law enforcement authorities. Witness Sukhranjan Bali was spotted inside the car of a Jamat-endorsed lawyer. Was all of this unknown to Ghamdi? Did he enable himself to just look away or did he criticise the tribunal with one of his eyes closed?
Of course amongst other admonishments, the tribunal have always been accused of conducting “unfair trials” within its walls, several individuals, organizations, entities have made this claim. In fact “unfair trials” was the tag phrase of the Jamaat’s campaign against the war trials. Indeed it set the precedent for all those who were opposed of freedom and sovereignty for Bangladesh, jolting them into action. They scoured the earth in search of the best PR firms, employing the best law firms, seeking the advice of top academics, politicians, bureaucrats, teachers etc all inj all, they have pulled out all stops in order to establish a network consisting of some of the most powerful entities in world of information and media.
So what constitutes a fair trial?
Well a fair trial first and foremost caters to the rights of the accused, ensuring that they aren’t any discrepancies which may hinder the accused from implementing his/her rights. And of course as in any court of law, it is the law itself which is of paramount importance, to see that they acceptable to the world, that they are allowed, they are compliant with international standard human rights, that they bring a fair and unprejudiced outcome.
In other words, the notion of “fair trial”, should be equipped with the another principle called “equality of arms”. Which means the prosecution and defence shall both have equal opportunities to place their arguments reserve their rights and that applies to each avenue, each organ really in every court case, be it gathering information, handling witnesses etc. And yet after all these years of research and analysis we still remain in the crossroads, still trying to learn as much as we can about what constitutes a fair trials. Even the slightest of doubts forces us to refer to some of the directive found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR). But at least everyone agrees that Article 14 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,1966 (ICCPR) is applicable internationally, something which has been clearly outlined by the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh. (To know about similarity between ICCPR and ICTBD please read this article)
In addition, let me quote from the verdict of Chief Prosecutor vs Ali Ahsan Muhammd Muzahid case, where the court clearly mentioned:
“35. Ensuring rights of accused is a pertinent issue involved in any criminal trial. Fair trial concept stems from the recognized rights of accused. The Tribunal [ICT-2], a domestic judicial forum constituted under our own legislation enacted in the Parliament and is obliged to guarantee the rights of the accused and key elements of fair trial which are (i) right to disclosure (ii) public hearing (iii) presumption of innocence (iv) adequate time to prepare defence (v) expeditious trial (vi) right to examine witness (vii) right to defend by engaging counsel. All the rights including these ones have been provided to the accused so that the fair trial requirements are satisfied.
Right to Disclosure
36. Article 9(2) ICCPR contains-“Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.” This provision compatibly reflects in the Rule 9(3) of ROP that provides-“At the time of executing the warrant of arrest under sub-rule (2) or later on, copy of allegations is to be served upon such person.” Further, Rule 18 (4) of ICT-BD provides “The Chief prosecutor shall file extra copies of formal charge and copies of other documents for supplying the same to the accused(s) which the prosecution intends to rely upon in support of such charges so that the accused can prepare his defence.”
37. Thus, right to disclosure has been adequately ensured so that the suspect person can have fair opportunity to defend his own interest. The Tribunal has allowed privileged communications between the accused and his engaged counsels, in prison as and when prayed for.
To be presumed innocent till found guilty
38. The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is one of the cornerstones of fair trial proceedings and is related to the protection of human dignity. It is universally accepted settled jurisprudence. In common law system, defence is to prove nothing and he or she shall be presumed innocent till found guilty. No one can be convicted unless the charge brought against him is proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. This is the standard and universally
settled criminal jurisprudence that all the courts constituted under valid legislation will follow. In ICT-BD the provision that the burden of proving the charge shall lie upon the prosecution (Rule 50) amply implicates the theory of innocence of an accused until and unless he is held guilty through trial. Besides, a person charged with crimes as described under section 3(2) of the Act shall be presumed innocent until found guilty [Rule 43(2) of the ROP].
Adequate time to prepare defence
39. The key element of fair trial notion is the right of an accused to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense during all stages of the trial. What time is considered adequate depends on the circumstances of the case. The concept of fairness is the idea of doing what’s best and levelheaded. 40. The ‘three weeks’ time is given to the defense to prepare. Section 9(3) of the Act of 1973 explicitly provides that ‘at least three weeks’ before the commencement of the trial, the Chief Prosecutor shall have to furnish a list of witnesses along with the copies of recorded statement and documents upon which it intends to rely upon. Additionally, what time is considered adequate depends on the circumstances of the case. The ICT-BD is in practice not to deny any of accused’s right to have time necessary for preparation of his defense or interest.
Right to examine witnesses
43. Under section 10(1) (f) of the Act of 1973 defence shall have right to examine witness, if any. In the case in hand, defence submitted a list of 1315 witnesses under section 9(5) of the Act of 1973 at the commencement of trial. Submitting such a long list is indeed unheard of. However, eventually considering the defence case extracted from the trend of cross-examination of prosecution witnesses the Tribunal [ICT-2] permitted the defence to produce
and examine only 03 witnesses preferably from their list, in exercise of power given in section 22 of the Act and Rule 46A of the ROP. But however, defence produced and examined only one(01) witness who has mainly proved and exhibits some documents.
44. Therefore the ICT-2 guarantees the required procedural protections of the accused’s right to fair trial both in pre-trial phase and during trial as well. The Act of 1973 and the Rules [ROP] framed there under are explicitly compatible with the fair trial concept as contained in the ICCPR. We have given a portrayal on compatibility of provisions in ICT Act with the ICCPR in the case of Muhammad Kamaruzzaman [ICT-BD Case No.03 pf 2012, Judgement 09 May 2013, para 63].
45. Additionally, it will be evident from above procedural account that the Act of 1973 does indeed adhere to most of the rights of the accused enshrined under Article 14 of the ICCPR. However, from the aforementioned discussion it reveals that all the key rights have been adequately ensured under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 and we will find that those fairly correspond to the ICCPR.”
The individuals, organisations that Ghamdi explicitly mentions in his article, most of whom of course have condemned and consistently scrutinised the war trials in Bangladesh unfairly, wrongly and with stubbornly false words. The UN, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch amongst others all made their stance clear on death penalties being awarded in Bangladesh. But Bangladesh refused to cave in, stating that death penalties are part of the country’s judiciary system and as such is irrevocable.
But the funny bit in all of this is a how oblivious Mr Al Ghamdi is to the savageries endorsed by the judiciary system of his own country (mentioned above). Atrocities, which make a death penalty look tame.
Bangladesh today can proudly state that it has conducted these trials staying well within the laws, honouring its constitution and ensuring that all rules and procedures have been duly followed. Remember, those who have been convicted by these laws today, were also once in charge of Bangladesh. If these laws are so unsavoury, why didn’t they amend them while they still could? As such it can be deduced that the laws are polished and grossly acceptable, and as such they saw no need to amend or renovate them.
The Bangladesh judiciary had ensured equal rights to both sides and in doing so, they have managed approach and conclude the 1971 war trials in an admirable manner in the face of such constant adversity.
In doing so they have set the benchmark for the rest of the world to follow. Bangladesh has proved that there is justice for those who seek it, and that criminals would not go unpunished.
Bangladesh enacted the International Crimes Tribunal Act in 1973, an era where only a handful of countries and individuals conducted research on it or practiced it. You can realize just for how long patience had to be maintained, in between the instigation and hen finally implementation of the international criminal law in Bangladesh, although perpetual political instability did the country no favours. But nonetheless Bangladesh has proved that it is never too late to seek salvation. It has proved that it will make sure that traitors to this country are put in their place sooner or later and punished, to the fullest extent of the law.
Even if a murderer turns into an devout philanthropist, becomes a civil servant and devotes himself to community service for the rest of his lives, the fact that his soul is tainted will always remain. Ghamdi’s country believes in the eye for eye, a death for a death rule. Nobody is concerned with justice back there. There is no justice back there.
So it becomes an ultimate portrayal of ignominy and foolhardiness, when someone who represents a nation like Saudi Arabia, devotes himself into tarnishing the reputation of Bangladesh by criticising her justice system with inaccurate and false information. And those lies consequently become criminal transgressions, sins.
Al Ghamdi has committed sin after sin throughout his article.