B’desh: 22 appeals of 1971 war criminals pending
Dhaka: Two International Crimes Tribunals (ICT) of Bangladesh has so far delivered verdicts in 41 cases filed in connection with crimes against humanity committed during the liberation war in 1971.
After the verdicts, 39 appeals have been filed with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Among those 22 appeals of the death sentenced convicted are pending due to Covid-19 pandemic, Zed Al Malum, Prosecutor (Admin) of ICT of Bangladesh, told IANS on Wednesday.
There is no provision to dispose the appeals virtually. Therefore, the review of the appeals is totally uncertain for the pandemic situation as it is not mandatory to review anytime, he said.
An amendment to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973 in February 2013 made a provision for disposing appeals against sentences in 60 days, raising hope that the SC would quickly deliver judgments.
The hearings resumed on 2019, after more than three years, justice seekers hoped to get the justice finally.
But the process came to a halt again. No appeals were heard in the last one year, as the apex court is overloaded with pending cases and its regular functions slowed down due to the pandemic.
The last war-crime related appeal hearing took place at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on December 3, 2019. Convicted war criminal Syed Mohammad Qaisar filed the appeal, challenging the death penalty handed to him by a war-crimes tribunal in 2014.
The Appellate Division has so far disposed of only nine such appeals, including the one Qaisar filed, in the last seven years.
Three appeals filed by the convicted Top war criminals former Jamaat-e-Islami Chief (amir) Ghulam Azam, former BNP minister Abdul Alim and former Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdus Sobhan, against their jail sentences, were declared “abated” by the apex court, as the convicted died while their appeals were pending with the court.
On July 20 this year, a virtual bench of the Appellate Division, headed by the Chief Justice of Bangladesh Syed Mahmud Hossain, said it will hold hearing on the review petition of war criminal ATM Azharul Islam when its regular functions resume after the pandemic.
On July 19, Azharul, convicted war criminal and Jamaat-e-Islami leader, filed the petition with the SC, seeking review of its verdict that upheld his death penalty for genocide and crimes against humanity during the war.
The nine war criminals whose appeals have already been settled by the top court are Top killer of 1971 Jamaat-e-Islami Amir (Chief) Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed, Jamat leaders Delawar Hossain Sayedee, Muhammad Kamaruzaman, Abdul Quader Mollah, Mir Quasem Ali and ATM Azharul Islam, BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and former Jatiya Party leader Syed Mohammad Qaisar.
Among them, Nizami, Mojaheed, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Kamaruzzaman, Quader Mollah, Quasem were hanged to death, after the apex court dismissed their review petitions against verdicts, confirming their death sentences.
Another war criminal Jamat-e-Islam leader and anti-liberation communal preacher and Pakistani propagandist Delwar Hossain Sayedee, whose imprisonment until death was affirmed by the SC, is now in jail.
Meanwhile, newly-appointed attorney general of Bangladesh, AM Amin Uddin said: “I will inquire about the war-crime appeals pending with the Appellate Division. If they are ready for hearing, I will take an initiative in January for their hearing.”