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ICT-1 warns HRW of contempt

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The International Crimes Tribunal-1 on Thursday warned HRW, a New York-based global rights body, with a note to be more careful, cautious and respectful in making any statement or comment over the judicial proceedings or judges of Bangladesh courts in the future.
Upon a contempt of court case submitted by the prosecution, the three-member tribunal passed the order as it found contemptuous its report published on its official website over its judgment on former Jamaat-e-Islami ameer Ghulam Azam, a 1971 war crimes convict. "It has been proven the HRW made contemptuous remarks in its official website on the judges as well as the authority of the tribunal in the name of freedom of speech and expression," observed the tribunal while disposing of the contempt plea.
The tribunal said, "It's very unfortunate and undesirable for the nation at large that organisation like HRW along with its two other persons having no adequate knowledge over the proceedings of the case made such remarks on their official website on August 16, 2013."
The tribunal, however, said their subsequent repentance (apology) through their counsel as well as written reply makes the view weaker in the core of the issue brought by the prosecution.
The tribunal further said though found to be contemptuous against the HRW (Human Rights Watch), it has taken a lenient view as this is for the first time such allegation brought against the global rights body.
In its order, the tribunal expected more circumspection, understanding, discretion and judgment on the part of the HRW because it strongly has been claiming that it speaks on behalf of the distressed and oppressed people and of their fundamental rights.
Justice Jahangir Hossain read out the 43-page computer-composed judgment, as proposed by ICT-1 Chairman Justice M Enayetur Rahim, exhausting 105 minutes. Its other member Justice Anwarul Haque was also present.
On July 15, 2013, the ICT-1 sentenced Ghulam Azam to 90 years' imprisonment finding him guilty of all five charges of the 1971 crimes against humanity and genocide against him.
After a month of pronouncement of the judgment, the HRW on August 16, 2013 released a report on its website headlined 'Bangladesh: Azam conviction based on flawed proceedings: Analysis outlines how fair trial rights of accused seriously compromised', claimed that the trial of the former Jamaat-e-Islami chief was deeply flawed and it had not met the international standards.
It said, the "Judges improperly conducted an investigation on behalf of the prosecution" and expressed concern over "collusion and biased among prosecutors and judges."
The HRW also expressed concern over the "failure to take steps to protect defence witnesses", and "lack of evidence to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt."
It also claimed that the defence counsels were not aware of the "investigation" and were thus unable to comment on or challenge the evidence which was a serious violation of article-14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Bangladesh was a party.
On August 20, 2013, the prosecution filed the petition with the tribunal seeking to issue a contempt notice upon the Human Rights Watch (HRW) for publishing a 'contemptuous' report over its judgment on former Jamaat-e-Islami ameer Ghulam Azam. On September 2, the tribunal issued the contempt of court notice upon the HRW.
The prosecution accused the HRW's Executive Director, Asia Division, Brad Adams, and Associate, Asia Division, Storm Tiv of violating section 11 (4) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 that carries simple imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to Tk 5000, or with both.
Advocate M Asaduzaman along with Anisul Hassan represented the HRW while chief prosecutor Golam Arif Tipu, prosecutors Zead Al Malum, Dr Tureen Afroz, Sultan Mahmud Simon and Barrister Tapos Kanti Boul appeared for the prosecution.

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