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UN rights experts urge Bangladesh to stop violence over war crimes tribunal

Several UN human rights experts called on [press release] Bangladesh Friday to cease violent protests and return to peaceful demonstrations. The Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression Frank La Rue expressed concern over attacks against journalists and other media workers, while the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion Heiner Bielefeldt [official profiles] expressed particular alarm at the destruction of Hindu temples and homes, which has left many families homeless. The violence has largely occurred in the context of the trials and verdicts of the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) [Facebook page]. The ICTB was established as a domestic court to try and punish persons accused of committing atrocities such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during Bangladesh's 1971 independence war. Violent clashes between security forces and various factions of civilians have resulted in at least 88 deaths and led to the injury of hundreds.

Last month the Bangladesh parliament [official website, JURIST report] and the Bangladesh Cabinet [JURIST report] approved amendments to the country's war crimes laws to allow prosecutors to appeal sentences given to defendants convicted of war crimes. These amendments were a response to protests [JURIST report] that ensued after Abdul Quader Mollah, another JI leader, was given a life sentence [JURIST report] for war crimes committed during the 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. The law passed by parliament will be effective retroactively [AP report] to July 2009, allowing prosecutors to appeal Mollah's sentence.

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