[JURIST] The Bangladesh parliament [official website] on Sunday approved amendments to the country's war crimes laws to allow prosecutors to appeal sentences given to defendants convicted of war crimes. These amendments are a response to protests [JURIST report] that ensued after Abdul Quader Mollah, leader of the Islamist Jamatt-e-Islami (JI) [party website], was given a life sentence [JURIST report] for war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War (BLW). The protesters believed a life sentence was too lenient and that Mollah, who was convicted of charges including murder, rape and torture, should have been given the death penalty. Previously, only defendants had the right to appeal sentences they believed were too harsh. The law passed by parliament on Sunday will be effective retroactively [AP report] to July 2009, allowing prosecutors to appeal Mollah's sentence.
These amendments have been criticized by Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], which said last week that they threaten the legitimacy [JURIST report] of the country's war crimes tribunal. UN officials also expressed concern earlier this month over a death sentence [JURIST reports] handed down by the same Bangladesh court to Abul Kalam Azad, another member of JI. Azad was convicted of murder, rape, destruction of property, theft and threatening witnesses during the BLW. The second International Crimes Tribunal [Facebook page], which convicted and sentenced Mollah and Azad, in Bangladesh was established in 2010 [JURIST report] to investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the BLW.