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Bangladesh court sentences 611 individuals for 2009 mutiny

A special military court in Dhaka on Monday convicted 611 of the 621 accused in the 13th Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] Battalion for their participation in the February 2009 mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Only 10 soldiers were acquitted while the remaining soldiers were sentenced to prison terms ranging from four months to seven years. Since the mutiny, which left 74 dead, around 4,000 individuals have been convicted and sentenced for their participation. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] condemned [press release] the mass trials claiming they do not meet the international standards and violate the country's constitution. Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, stated that the mass trials must stop immediately noting that those responsible for the killing of 74 people during the mutiny should be tried before the court only if the trial meets the international fair trial requirements. Until then, the courts should place a hold on the proceedings. It has been reported that the government did not produce individualized evidence against the accused and used torture to force the accused to give statements against themselves and others. HRW also claimed that the mass trials means that lawyers cannot provide individual counsel to their clients. The courts have been prohibiting the accused from retaining their own lawyers and appealing the verdicts.

Bangladesh has been criticized for its approach to convicting individuals responsible for the mutiny. The government convicted virtually all of the now-sentenced individuals in mass trials making it impossible for individual representation of the accused. In July of last year, HRW urged [JURIST report] the country's authorities to ensure fair trials are provided to the accused. The call came a month after a military court sentenced [JURIST report] 657 border guards for their roles in the mutiny while nine individuals were acquitted. After the sentence, the number of those found to be guilty reached 3,000. During the same month another 430 people were sentenced [JURIST report]. In January of last year, a court in Dhaka began [JURIST report] its trial of 800 soldier charged with crimes including murder, conspiracy and looting military weapons, among others.

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