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Bangladesh: Tribunal Issues Death Sentences for War Crimes

(Nov. 12, 2013) On November 3, 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal for Bangladesh handed down death sentences to two men for crimes they committed in 1971, during the country’s war with Pakistan. Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan were found guilty of abducting and killing 18 people in December 1971, at a time in which the government says that three million people were killed and 200,000 women were raped by Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators. (Max Slater, Bangladesh Tribunal Sentences Two Men to Death for Crimes Against Humanity, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Nov. 4, 2013).) The two men are charged with being leaders of theAl-Badar offshoot of Jamaat-e-Islami, a group that supported the Pakistani military. In December 1971, it is alleged, Al-Badar took professors, journalists, and other intellectuals away from their houses at gunpoint; many of their bodies were later found in a mass grave. (Bangladesh War Crimes Trial Proceeds Without ICNA Official, IPT NEWS (July 24, 2013),

Legal Basis for the Trial

The Tribunal was established under Bangladesh’s International Crimes (Tribunals) Act (Act No. XIX, 1973 (July 20, 1973), LAWS OF BANGLADESH.) It specifies that tribunals will “have the power to try and punish” individuals, groups, or organizations, including members of the military, from any country who commit or have committed, “in the territory of Bangladesh, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, any of the crimes mentioned in subsection (2).” (Id. art. 3(1).) Those crimes include crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, genocide, and war crimes; the actions that constitute these crimes are listed in the Act. (Id. art. 3(2).)

Political Issue Raisedc

Protestors in Bangladesh have objected to the focus of the Tribunal’s trials on members of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party, a group that sided with Pakistan in the conflict in 1971 and with which both Uddin and Khan are associated. (Slater, supra.) Uddin, who is at present based in the United Kingdom and was tried in absentia, called the proceedings corrupt and proclaimed his innocence. (Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin Says Bangladesh War Crime Trial Was “Corrupt,” BBC NEWS (Nov. 4, 2013).) Khan, who lives in New York and is now an American citizen, was also tried in absentia. (Bangladesh War Crimes Trial Proceeds Without ICNA Official, supra.)