Rights Group Urges Fair War Crimes Trials in Bangladesh

Posted July 13th, 2011 at 10:30 am (UTC-5)
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An international human rights group is urging the Bangladeshi government to better guarantee fair trials for those accused of war crimes during the country's 1971 war of independence.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement this week that Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal, set up by the government last year to hold fair and credible trials for crimes against humanity during the independence war, needs to be brought into compliance with international standards.

The group said Bangladesh needs to clearly state the crimes committed in each case, change the due process rights for the accused and address any problems in victim and witness protection.

Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan, won its independence in 1971 after a nine-month war with Pakistan. Three million people were killed and hundreds of thousands of women were raped.

Human Rights Watch's Asia director, Brad Adams, says that while Bangladesh has promised to meet international standards, it has, in his words, “some way to go” to honor that commitment.

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HRW commended Bangladesh's amended rules, which include giving the accused the right to the presumption of innocence, a fair and public hearing with counsel of their choice and the possibility of bail.

But the group urged further changes, including allowing the accused to question the tribunal's impartiality, granting the defense more than three weeks to prepare and providing the accused with the option to make appeals throughout the trial instead of only at the end.