The hanging of Abdul Quader Molla in Bangladesh has evoked a mixed reaction within Pakistan as expected. The National Assembly passed a resolution condemning it and many in Pakistan are seeing this move as an act of revenge – albeit erroneously — by one political party against another. On the other hand, there are some political parties which purport to support a sovereign nation’s right to do what it thinks as correct and to end what has been called the ‘cycle of impunity’. Without going into the lengthy debate on peace vs justice and retribution vs revenge, etc, I seek to evaluate the standards of due process which are expected from an international tribunal.

The whole purpose of setting up international criminal tribunals in the arena of international law is to bring criminals who have committed crimes against humanity to justice. The subject matter and the jurisdiction of these courts or tribunals, with a few exceptions, pertain to the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of International Humanitarian Law.

The International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh is a strange case in point. It is being viewed with grave concern in some international circles and its departure from the standard practice of other tribunals is now ringing alarm bells. A large number of objections can be brought against the said tribunal as it is not very clear from where the International Criminal Court of Bangladesh derives its international legitimacy?

A look at all the other international criminal tribunals show that the prosecutor, the registrar, the investigators, as well as the judges are drawn from a mixed composition of national and international individuals. In the case of the tribunal in Bangladesh, the entire body of three judges, twelve prosecutors and the seven member investigation committee are all Bangladeshis. Observers are also pointing out serious flaws in the procedural law that is being followed in Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal also break ranks with all the other international criminal tribunals by awarding the death penalty, which is excluded by the Statute of the International Criminal Court as well as all the other international crimes tribunals without exception, as the United Nations unconditionally opposes the death penalty under all circumstances, even for the most heinous crimes.

In light of the above, should the international community watch in silence as a responsible member of the international community violates and breaches international law with impunity? Or should there be international censure to ensure that the extremely foul precedent being set up by the Bangladeshi government is rejected unconditionally and never allowed to be repeated again, certainly not under the cover of ‘International Law’?


Lahore, December 18.