The International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh (ICT) is a special court of domestic character established in 2010 to investigate and prosecute international crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War. Although this terrible conflict took thousands of lives and changed the South Asian Geography, the crimes committed during the war were met with blatant impunity.
Even though the ICT seemed to materialize the long-needed promise of criminal accountability, due to political manipulation as well as constant procedural violations of international standards of due process, the ICT lost all its international support and legitimacy. Several human rights institutions and organisations, including the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteurs have identified serious infringements of the right to a fair trial that render the defendants’ convictions and sentences null and void. However, the ICT has already imposed more than a dozen capital sentences and executed six persons. The last executed, Mir Quasem Ali, was hanged in 2016.
The unfairness of the processes before the ICT, which has systematically targeted leaders of the political opposition, has re-opened old collective wounds in the Bangladeshi society. Last summer, the sons of three political leaders convicted by the ICT were forcibly disappeared. The whereabouts of two of them are still unknown.
Moreover, in 2014, most political groups in the opposition decided to boycott the parliamentary elections due to the opacity and unfairness of the electoral process. Since then, both the Legislative and Executive branches of government are led by a single political party. This situation has aggravated political tensions and escalated episodes of oppression and violence. In this vein, human rights organisations have reported the existence of a crackdown against members of the opposition, journalists and human rights defenders consisting on a discernible pattern of extrajudicial executions, tortures and enforced disappearances.
Our team is currently working on a two-fold strategy to seek justice for the Bangladeshi victims.
First, Guernica is currently working alongside Bangladeshi human rights defenders as well as international lawyers and journalists to bring these grave human rights violations to international courts and mechanisms of protection, as well as to raise awareness about these events to mobilize international action.
Furthermore, according to the principle of universal justice, national authorities have the obligation to guarantee the victims’ access to justice. Consequently, our team of international lawyers are conducting investigations and analysing legal possibilities to initiate transnational processes of accountability before national courts in foreign jurisdictions, against perpetrators of international crimes and violations of human rights in Bangladesh.