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Back Activities Alerts Forwarded Alert: Bangladesh-Appeal For Pardon Of 5 Bangladeshi Army Officers

Forwarded Alert: Bangladesh-Appeal For Pardon Of 5 Bangladeshi Army Officers

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Please send an appeal letter to the President of Bangladesh through the Bangladeshi Embassy in your country.

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Forwarded from: Citizens International
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14 December 2009

Forwarded Alert: Bangladesh-Appeal For Pardon Of 5 Bangladeshi Army Officers

Background

Bangladesh became a parliamentary democracy after its independence in 1971 with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman becoming the Prime Minister. In early 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman initiated a one-party socialist rule with his newly formed BAKSAL, an amalgamation of the Awami League with the Krishak Sramik parties. On August 15, 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with most of his family members were assassinated by mid-level military officers in a military coup.

The tragic killings took place in the context of a serious conflict in Bangladesh society regarding the nature and ideology of the Bangladesh state and deep and widespread dissatisfaction with the one-party government which led to a mutiny by the armed forces. The army and air force chiefs as well as all but four of the top Awami League leaders pledged allegiance to the military-backed government publicly and there was no public uprising against the mutineers. Thus the killings were not premeditated murders but the violent outcome of the armed forces’ mutiny.

Under the principle of command responsibility all the senior officers of the armed forces should have been held accountable for the mutiny. Instead, the then army chief General Safiullah was a witness in the trial and the chief of the air force AK Khondoker is a member of the cabinet in the present government. Many in Bangladesh and the outside world would perceive as blatantly discriminatory the trial of a handful of officers in the civil courts for murder while letting off the hook the most senior officers in the armed forces who praised these convicted officers for what they had done. Such perception would undermine the integrity of the institutions responsible for criminal justice in Bangladesh.

The then President Kondaker Mushtaq Ahmed and his subsequent successor, President Ziaur Rahman, had granted the accused officers immunity from prosecution. However it was lifted when Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, became the Prime Minister after her party, the Awami League, won the 1996 elections.

On 8 November 1998, a Dhaka court sentenced 15 of the 20 men accused of the murders to death. The case went for an appeal hearing on 14 December 2000 and on another hearing on 30 April 2001, the High Court upheld the death sentences for 12 of the defendants and acquitted the remaining three. Five of those convicted who are being held in the Dhaka Central Jail had appealed against their death sentences. They are Syed Farooq-ur Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed and Bazlul Huda. The others, who are not in Bangladesh, were tried in absentia.
 
Thus many see the trial and conviction of the officers who are decorated freedom fighters as an act of vengeance, and not an act of justice, to avenge the deaths of her father and family members. After all, her own father had granted immunity to members of Rakhsmi Bahini who were responsible for the extra-judicial killings of thousands. Thus, the verdict, instead of leading to reconciliation among the contending groups in Bangladesh society, would serve only to revive the old wounds of the 1975 mutiny and prolong the conflict and violence that has torn Bangladesh society apart and impeded its development.   

It is incredible that the state minister for law Qamrul Islam would tell the media on 19 November 2009 that ‘the five condemned will be executed in January’ even before the Supreme Court review of the decision is completed and any petition for pardon considered by the President.  It appears that the hanging of these officers is a foregone conclusion in violation of the powers of the Supreme Court to review its decision and the power granted to the President under the Constitution to grant pardons.

Citizens International is making an appeal to President Zilur Rahman to pardon the convicted officers in view of their contribution to the freedom struggle and the circumstances in which the mutiny took place, and to set in motion a process of reconciliation along the lines of the Truth Commission in South Africa so that justice will be done to all the victims of human rights abuses that occurred since 1975, and the violators, regardless of party or class affiliation, made accountable for their crimes. What Bangladesh needs badly is a period of peace in which to focus all national efforts towards achieving economic growth, reducing poverty and gross inequality, fighting corruption, and protecting the human rights of all Bangladeshis.

Action required

1.    Please send an appeal letter to the President of Bangladesh through the Bangladeshi Embassy in your country asking for a presidential pardon on the army officers who took part in the 1975 military coup.

2.    Similarly, you can also send appeal letters to the UN Commissioner’s Office of Human Rights, the US President, the EU Human Rights Council and the OIC asking them to appeal for clemency of the convicted army officers.

3.    Please update us on your actions towards this alert and inform us of any response.

4.    A copy of our appeal letter is attached for your perusal.
 

Sample letter

Date

H.E. President Zilur Rahman
(via) The High Commission for The People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Block - 1, Lorong Damai 7
Jalan Damai
55000 Kuala Lumpur


Assalaamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakaatuh.


Your Excellency,

                                       APPEAL FOR PARDON


We the undersigned NGOs and community leaders representing Malaysian civil society appeal to you to pardon Syed Farooq–ur Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Bazlul Huda who have been convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and their family member during the army mutiny in 1975.

We do not question the soundness of the decisions of the Bangladesh courts although they have come under severe criticism from eminent lawyers. Our appeal is based on humanitarian consideration, justice and compassion preached by Islam and other religions.

1.    The tragic killings took place in the context of a serious conflict in Bangladesh society regarding the nature and ideology of the Bangladesh state and deep and widespread dissatisfaction with the one-party government which led to a mutiny by the armed forces. The army and air force chiefs as well as all but four of the top Awami League leaders pledged allegiance to the military-backed government publicly and there was no public uprising against the mutineers. Thus the killings were not premeditated murders but the violent outcome of the armed forces’ mutiny.

2.    Under the principle of command responsibility all the senior officers of the armed forces should have been held accountable for the mutiny. Instead, the then army chief General Safiullah was a witness in the trial and the chief of the air force AK Khondoker is a member of the cabinet in the present government. Many in Bangladesh and the outside world would perceive as blatantly discriminatory the trial of a handful of officers in the civil courts for murder while letting off the hook the most senior officers in the armed forces who praised these convicted officers for what they had done. Such perception would undermine the integrity of the institutions responsible for criminal justice in Bangladesh.

3.    The convicted officers were granted immunity from prosecution by the then acting President Kondaker Mushtaq in 1975 which continued under his successor President Ziaur Rahman. It was only lifted when Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister in 1996. Thus many see the trial and conviction of the officers who are decorated freedom fighters as an act of vengeance, and not an act of justice, to avenge the deaths of her father and family members. After all, her own father had granted immunity to members of Rakhsmi Bahini who were responsible for the extra-judicial killings of thousands. Thus, the verdict, instead of leading to reconciliation among the contending groups in Bangladesh society, would serve only to revive the old wounds of the 1975 mutiny and prolong the conflict and violence that has torn Bangladesh society apart and impeded its development.   

4.    It is incredible that the state minister for law Qamrul Islam would tell the media on 19 November 2009 that ‘the five condemned will be executed in January’ even before the Supreme Court review of the decision is completed and any petition for pardon considered by Your Excellency.  It appears that the hanging of these officers is a foregone conclusion in violation of the powers of the Supreme Court to review its decision and the power granted to Your Excellency under the Constitution to grant pardons.

5.    We appeal to Your Excellency to pardon the convicted officers in view of their contribution to the freedom struggle and the circumstances in which the mutiny took place, and to set in motion a process of reconciliation along the lines of the Truth Commission in South Africa so that justice will be done to all the victims of human rights abuses that occurred since 1975, and the violators, regardless of party or class affiliation, made accountable for their crimes. What Bangladesh needs badly is a period of peace in which to focus all national efforts towards achieving economic growth, reducing poverty and gross inequality, fighting corruption, and  protecting the human rights of all Bangladeshis.

We hope and trust that you will consider our appeal favourably, exercise compassion   and pardon the convicted officers. We implore Your Exellency to follow the example of our beloved Prophet Muhammd s.a.w who, upon entering Mecca victoriously,  forgave all his enemies including Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, who, during the Battle of Uhud, had arranged for the Prophet’s beloved uncle Saidina Hamzah to be killed and his body cannibalized.


Source: Citizens International

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Forwarded by IHRC solely for informational purposes, please contact source website for more information

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Holy Qur'an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

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