Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged [press release] Bangladesh to stop the harassment of defense counsel and witnesses to preserve legitimacy of the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh (ICTB) [official Facebook page]. HRW pointed to reports that defense counsel and witnesses have been threatened with violence and arrest in order to impede them from participating in the trials. Asia director Brad Adams called for immediate action: "Harassment of defense counsel and witnesses further tarnishes a flawed process. If the Bangladeshi government wants these trials to be taken seriously it must ensure that the rights of the accused are fully respected. That means making sure that lawyers and witnesses don't face threats or coercion."
Earlier this week, the ICTB ordered the prosecution to submit formal charges [JURIST report] against four leaders of Jamaat e Islam (JI) who are suspected of war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounders] against Pakistan. Also this week, the ICTB delayed [JURIST report] the start of its first war crimes trial. The ICTB was slated to hear arguments in the case of Delwar Hossain Sayedee, leader of JI. Sayedee's lawyer asked the tribunal to review the charges against his client. The tribunal accepted 20 of 31 charges including allegations of aiding Pakistani soldiers, committing murder and rape, torching villages, looting and forcibly converting Hindus to Islam. Sayedee has denied the charges. The trial is scheduled to resume on November 20. In July, Bangladeshi prosecutors filed the underlying war crime charges [JURIST reports] in the ICTB against Sayedee.