Bangladesh to amend war crimes penalty laws in response to protests

[JURIST] The Bangladesh Law Minister Shafique Ahmed on Sunday said that a proposal to amend its war crimes laws to allow the government to appeal for higher sentences will be placed before the cabinet on Monday. This amendment would allow either side to appeal against a conviction for reasons including inadequate sentencing and will allow prosecutors to appeal an order of acquittal. As of now, prosecutors can only appeal against an order of acquittal. The proposal is a response to six days of protests that ensued after Abdul Quader Mollah, the leader of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [official website] party, was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] for convictions including murder, rape and torture. Many protesters believed that this penalty was too lenient, and that Mollah's sentence was too light and that he should have been sentenced to death for his crimes. Ahmed proclaimed [Reuters report] that the amendment "will be passed in the current parliament session."

Mollah's sentence was the latest to be handed down for war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War (BLW) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Last week, UN officials expressed concern over a death sentence [JURIST reports] that was handed down last month against Abul Kalam Azad, another former leader of JI, for similar war crimes. Both Azad and Mollah's sentences were handed down by Bangladesh's second International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) [Facebook page; JURIST news archive], which was established in March 2010 specifically to hear cases involving war crimes during the BLW.

 

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