Persecution or Justice?

A trial in Bangladesh, which brought death sentences for 152 border guards accused of murder and arson in a mutiny in 2009, failed to meet international law standards, United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Wednesday.

Citing allegations that many of the defendants in the mass trial, which ended on Tuesday, had been abused and tortured while in jail, she also called for a full independent investigation into how the accused were treated.

“The crimes committed during the mutiny were utterly reprehensible and heinous,” the former South African high court and International Criminal Court judge said in a statement.

But she added: “Justice will not be achieved by conducting mass trials of hundreds of individuals, torturing suspects in custody and sentencing them to death after trials that failed to meet the most fundamental standards of due process.”

A total of 171 of the mutineers, whose main complaint was that their regular army commanders were better paid and housed, were acquitted, while the remainder of the some 4,000 defendants were given jail terms of up to 10 years and fines.

At the same time, she voiced concern about the conduct of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) set up by the Bangladesh government in 2010 to try people accused of atrocities during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

The ICT, she said, should be an important means to tackle impunity for those atrocities and provide redress to the victims, but its proceedings had to meet the highest standards if they were to enforce the rule of law.

The Tribunal has sentenced 7 people to death, but Pillay called on the Bangladesh government not to carry out the sentences due to concerns about the fairness of the trials.

Source: http://www.euronews.com/newswires/2197292-un-rights-chief-says-bangladesh-trials-unfair/

Jamaat-e-Islami ineligible for next elections: Bangladesh EC

In a major blow to the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami ahead of polls in Bangladesh, the Election Commission on Thursday said the party cannot participate in the general election in line with a court order. Election Commissioner Shah Nawaz said the Jamaat would not be able to participate in the polls as the High Court had declared its registration illegal.

Banning the Jamaat may find support in some sections of Bangladesh’s civil society, but the action reeks of political persecution, coming as it does on the eve of elections. If the Jamaat’s attempts at stoking communalism for electoral gain are detestable, the guardians of Bangladesh’s secular character must ask themselves why it has been successful in this pursuit. In June, the BNP-Jamaat alliance trumped the AL comprehensively in elections to four major city corporations. Thanks to its lacklustre performance in office, Sheikh Hasina’s government has grown increasingly unpopular; banning the Jamaat will not resuscitate its poll prospects. In fact, doing so will not only deepen the theological-secular divide in Bangladesh, but also ensure the scars of 1971 remain open.

Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/jamaateislami-ineligible-for-next-elections-bangladesh-ec/1191989/?SocialMedia

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/an-unwarranted-ban/article4996503.ece

slavery Index

A global slavery index released on Thursday shows that about 30 million people are living like slaves around the world. Many among those, men, women and children are trafficked by gangs for sex and unskilled labour. Modern slavery was defined as human trafficking, forced labour, and practices such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and the sale or exploitation of children.

The index, released on Thursday by anti-slavery charity Walk Free Foundation, ranked 162 countries on the number living in slavery, the risk of enslavement, and the strength of government responses to combating the illegal activity. It found that 10 countries accounted for 76 percent of the 29.8 million people living in slavery – India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Up to 4,400 people are estimated to be enslaved in Britain, the victims mainly from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.They are forced into sex work, domestic servitude, or low-paid jobs in agriculture, construction, restaurants and nail salons

Source: www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2013/10/index-nearly-30-million-people-slavery-201310171748274269.html