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Trying Accused of War Crimes Living in UK

Oli Md. Abdullah Chowdhury


There is an apparent suggestion that prosecutors are about to lodge complaint after completing their investigation against a UK national of Bangladeshi origin for his alleged crime against humanity. Prosecutors along with the Law Minister of Bangladesh have vowed to bring all accused of war crimes no matter where they live, to book. While talking to the Telegraph, they expressed their determination to try one of the accused, namely Chowdhury Mueen Uddin currently living in UK.

Laws regarding extradition, however are complex in nature and UK government have experience diffiluties in extradiating foreign nationals in earlier occasions let alone British national.

Judges of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) have expressed their dissatisfactions regarding the performance of prosecutors employed for ongoing war crimes trial in Bangladesh. On a number of occasions, prosecutors have failed to convince sitting judges in the ICT. They have failed to produce valuable witnesses in some instances and the court passed remark on the arbitrariness of the prosecution team.

It is not only the prosecution team, but there is apparent failure from government functionaries as well. It was evident when the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had declared that the detention of suspects of the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal is arbitrary, and constitutes a breach of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Functionaeries of the government of Bangladesh did not respond to the UN Working Group in time and the group`s opinion was reliant primarily on information provided by the defense lawyers.

In order to avert similar failure in the future, the response must be prompt and effective. Already, there are at least two obstacles in trying accused of war crimes living in UK. Primary obstacles are:

1. There is no extradition treaty between Britain and Bangladesh. In absence of an extradition treaty, it is unlikely for the UK government to extradite accused living in UK.

2. Countries like UK does not extradite in cases where there is a likelihood of the death sentence.

Moreover, there are criticisms from international human rights bodies regarding trial standard. Human Rights Watch said that the ICT`s proceedings "fall short of international standards" with a "failure to ensure due process" and "serious concerns about the impartiality of the bench". Defense counsels might put forward all those to avoid extradition of the accused.

It has already been argued that the statement by the Bangladesh Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs is a clear declaration of guilt and in breach of the presumption of innocence. Plenty of background work and preparation are needed to convince UK government in order to extradiate the suspect to undergone trial in the ICT. Otherwise, trail in absentia would be the only option.

References:

  1. Leading British Muslim leader faces war crimes charges in Bangladesh; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/bangladesh/9204831/Leading-British-Muslim-leader-faces-war-crimes-charges-in-Bangladesh.html
  2. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx

The Writer is a human rights worker

21 Apr 2012   09:49:23 PM   Saturday
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