SHOAIB DANIYAL | FOR some time now, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been on the lookout for historical icons. After building an impressive present as India’s largest party, it is only natural that it would now look to construct a notable past. Given the colossal role that the Congress played in the freedom struggle, the…
British lawyer, Lord Carlile, will advise the defence panel of Khaleda Zia, in an attempt to beef up the BNP chairperson’s legal defence.
He is a renowned lawyer in London and a member of the British Queen’s Council and House of Lords.
“Hiring a foreign lawyer does not mean Bangladeshi lawyers are incapable,” BNP secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said in media briefing this week.
“From now on, Lord Carlile will provide advice to our lawyers, and will work on all matters of the case proceedings. If needed, he will come to Bangladesh also,” Fakhrul added.
Khaleda landed in prison on February 8 after she was handed a five-year jail sentence by a Dhaka court for misappropriating a donation fund of the Zia Orphanage Trust.
The HC on March 12 granted her four months’ bail on four grounds, among them her failing health.
Lord Carlile had been on the forefront on shoring up international support in favour of war criminals between 2013 and 2016.
Below is his exact statement after war criminal and Pakistan’s arch collaborator in 1971 Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was hanged following conviction in war crimes trial.
‘As an experienced voice on the subject of war crimes and human rights, I feel it is my duty to press for an urgent international response to this flawed process. The Bangladeshi Government has ignored the genuine concerns of the international legal community, as well as human rights organisations and governments. The judgment given today in the case of SQ Chowdhury shines another light on a legal process that is not fit for purpose. Witnesses were abducted and there have been proven cases of interference from the executive.
‘After each judgment, many hoped this tribunal would listen to the valid concerns of the international legal community. There has been no attempts at reform. The legitimacy of this court continues to diminish as the Bangladeshi government has ridden roughshod over fundamental legal norms.
‘At the UN General Assembly last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attempted to paint these trials as a noble enterprise. She argues they will bring justice and closure to victims of the terrible crimes committed in 1971.
Bangladeshi Government has ignored the genuine concerns of the international legal community, as well as human rights organisations and governments. The judgment given today in the case of SQ Chowdhury shines another light on a legal process that is not fit for purpose
However, they will do no such thing. These tribunals have proved so divisive, and have been so poorly managed, they risk polarising Bangladesh for a generation and poisoning political debate before the elections. This may lead to significant unrest and instability on the streets, which will only be magnified at election time.
‘I am also alarmed about allegations the Bangladeshi Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs formulated the judgment of SQ Chowdhury in May of this year. I have seen documents that suggest this may be true, although they must be independently verified. If proven true, they represent a profound breach of trust on behalf of the government.
‘Along with others in the legal community, I have already made representations to the United Nations on this matter. I will continue to press for an internationally supervised tribunal that can deliver real justice for Bangladeshis. I will also write to the Foreign Secretary and urge him to give this subject his urgent attention. As Bangladesh’s largest aid donor, it is now time to make a stand against such flagrant human rights violations.’
In a recent press statement published by the British House of Lords, Lord Carlile demanded that the Bangladesh government issue a formal invitation to a delegation of lawyers from the House to watch the trial proceedings of those who are accused of war crimes at the International Crimes Tribunal, Dhaka. This request was made following an oral assurance given to him by Shafique Ahmed, Bangladesh minister of law, justice and parliamentary affairs, when they met in London in September this year.
During the meeting, Lord Carlile told the minister that he had followed the proceedings of the court for some time, and asked whether he could take a group of senior lawyers of all parties from the House of Lords to visit the Tribunal and to have open access to everyone concerned, including the defendants in their place of incarceration. In reply, the minister agreed to this in principle and was very clear about his agreement, albeit orally.
Lord Carlile also recalled that members of the House shared his concern in relation to the proceedings at the Tribunal as part of a larger debate on the human rights situations in Bangladesh in October.
Lord Carlile demanded that the Bangladesh government issue a formal invitation to a delegation of lawyers from the House to watch the trial proceedings of those who are accused of war crimes at the International Crimes Tribunal, Dhaka
The war crimes tribunal, said Lord Carlile, was “an extreme form of point-scoring by one of the two big parties against the other”. If the government changed, the position might simply be reversed “with people being hanged for political reasons, which is a form of retribution that should have gone out 100 years ago”.
“These tribunals have proved so divisive, and have been so poorly managed, they risk polarising Bangladesh for a generation and poisoning political debate before the elections,” said Lord Carlile, a British Liberal Democrat peer and expert on war crimes and terrorism. He said he had irrefutable evidence that the Chowdhury judgment was either written by the government or submitted by the judges in advance in draft form to the law ministry for vetting.
Lord Carlile needs to understand polarisation is a fact of life in Bangladesh because the war criminals opposed the very emergence of Bangladesh as a free nation and joined Pakistan’s brutalized army in perpetrating horrendous crimes like rapes and massacre of innocents.
His decision to defend Khaleda after his pitch for the war criminals also makes it clear on which side of the divide Khaleda belongs to.
A simple question for the Graceful Lord Carlile – would you defend British collaborators of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia !
Then go out and defend the Russian agents who assassinated a former Soviet spy and his daughter with nerve gas. ■