US calls for halt to Kamaruzzaman execution

David Bergman

The United States government has called for the execution of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leader Md Kamaruzzman to be halted until the proceedings against him ‘can be shown’ to have met the country’s ‘domestic and international obligations.’
Stephen Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice at the US state department, said that although ‘some progress’ had been made in fair trial standards, he ‘still believed that further improvements to the International Crimes Tribunal process could ensure these proceedings meet domestic and international obligations.’
He then went onto say that, ‘until these obligations can be shown to have been made, it is best not to proceed with executions given the irreversibility of a death sentence.’
Rapp who was speaking from South Africa in a conference call, began the conversation by saying that ‘The United States supports bringing to justice those who committed atrocities in the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence’ but that in doing so, the trials must be ‘free, fair and transparent’, and in accordance with the country’s international obligations.
Rapp said that he was concerned about the way in which the International Crimes Tribunal had ruled that Kamaruzzman should be convicted for ‘aiding and abetting’ in the Sohagpur massacre in July 1971, the charge on which the appellate division had upheld the death penalty.
He stated that international law required in such ‘aiding and abetting’ offences, that the Jamaat leader, ‘knew that the [Al Badr] group was committing atrocities, that he provided assistance to the group with that knowledge. It was not necessary that he attend, but that the assistance that he provided needed to be substantial and in fact something that caused the atrocities committed.’
‘In this case at the trial level,’ he said, ‘we do not see that kind of standards upheld.’
He added that before upholding the conviction and death penalty on this charge the appellate division may well have considered other matters of evidence not dealt with by the Tribunal, but that it was necessary to see the judgment of the court before making any assessment.
In referring to the procedures of the tribunal that concerned him, Rapp pointed to the restricted number of witnesses the defence were allowed to call, and the court not taking into account ‘prior and inconsistent statements’ of prosecution witnesses.
On November 2, the appellate division upheld the death sentence against Kamaruzzaman handed down by Tribunal in May 2013.

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