Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013


SC overrules war crimes tribunal's 'inadequate punishment'

g01The Supreme Court yesterday sentenced Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah to death, overruling the judgment of International Crimes Tribunal-2 that had given him life term for war crimes committed in 1971.
Tribunal-2 had found Mollah, 65, guilty on five of the six charges of crimes against humanity. The court awarded him life imprisonment even though it had been proved beyond doubt that the Jamaat leader had committed heinous war crimes.
The Supreme Court in its maiden verdict in a war crimes appeal found him guilty on all charges.
A five-member SC bench sentenced Mollah, infamous as Mirpurer Kasai (Butcher of Mirpur), to life imprisonment on a charge the tribunal had acquitted him from on February 5.
The bench yesterday gave Mollah the death penalty by a majority, as one judge, even though finding him guilty, was against capital punishment for the Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general.
He will walk the gallows for killing six members of a family in Block-D of Mirpur-12 during the 1971 war.
“He [Mollah] be hanged till death,” said Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain.
The brief judgment was delivered in four minutes from 9:35am in a case considered one of the most significant.
The tribunal’s verdict on February 5 had given birth to the never-seen-before Shahbagh movement that demanded maximum punishment for the war criminals of the Liberation War and a ban on Jamaat-Shibir politics.
The movement prompted the government to amend International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 to ensure the right of the state to appeal on behalf of the war crimes victims of 1971. Before the amendment on February 17, the state could appeal only against an acquittal.
The state and the defence appealed against the tribunal verdict in March.
The movement, spearheaded by bloggers and online activists, put the Jamaat-e-Islami in a serious crisis of existence as thousands of protesters also demanded a ban on this anti-liberation political party and its business organisations.
The Jamaat, with the help of the main opposition BNP and the Islamist organisation Hefajat-e Islam, came down hard on the Shahbagh protestors, labelling them “atheists”.
Yesterday, several hundred people, including lawyers, journalists, justice seekers, victims of 1971 atrocities, local and foreign observers and Mollah’s son gathered in the court room.
Immediately after the judgment was delivered, state counsels expressed their satisfaction over the verdict. There was jubilation in Shahbagh too.
Mollah’s counsels, however, said, “It was a wrong verdict.”
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and many legal experts told journalists yesterday that Mollah would not be able to file a review petition against the judgment as he had been tried under the special law, the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, which did not have such provisions.
According to them, the government could proceed with the process of executing Mollah after receipt of the certified copy of the Supreme Court judgment.
However, Mollah’s chief counsel Abdur Razzaq yesterday said the defence would file a review petition as they could do it within 30 days of receiving the copy of the full verdict.
The Daily Star reached out to legal experts last night asking whether Mollah had the right to file a review petition.
Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik told The Daily Star that the review provision was not a right of any party. He said the provision was for correcting any clerical or legal mistakes in the copy of the judgment or in any legal issue.
However, criminal law expert Anisul Huq, who was the chief prosecutor in the historic Bangabandhu murder case, said there was indeed scope for the defence to file a review petition.
He said the government also had the authority to begin the process of implementing the death sentence, as long as the apex court’s verdict was not stayed.
He said the jail authorities and the district magistrate of Dhaka would start proceedings for executing Mollah as per Section-991(V1) of the Jail Code soon after receiving the certified copy of the judgment.
The authorities would execute Mollah after 21 days and before 28 days after initiating the procedure, he said.
He said Mollah’s counsel could also file an application with the chamber judge’s court seeking a stay on the operation of the verdict.
Anisul said the jail authorities would halt their proceedings, if the chamber judge of the Supreme Court stayed the operation of the verdict following a review petition.
Otherwise, there would be nothing to prevent the government from executing Mollah by October, said Anisul.
A few experts said if everything went against Mollah, he could be executed within eight weeks.
Mollah, however, could also seek presidential mercy.
According to the Jail Code, the jail authorities are supposed to fix a date for execution between day-21 and day-28 after getting the copy of the Supreme Court order rejecting a convict’s appeal. The execution date would be mentioned in the mercy petition sent to the home ministry for the president’s consideration.
In line with the code, the prison authorities will inform Mollah of his death sentence as soon as it gets the judgment copy and ask him to appeal to the president for mercy through the prison authorities within seven days.
The jail authorities will wait 15 days for the president to decide. If the president rejects the prayer, the authorities will reset the clock and start counting again from day-1 to his execution day, which will be between day-21 and day-28.
Mollah is in Kashimpur Jail. Kashimpur-2 Senior Jail Superintendent Jahangir Kabir told The Daily Star that the jail authorities were yet to get the copy of the verdict.
“Now, he is alone in a cell. Once we receive the official order of the Supreme Court, we will inform him [Mollah] officially and send him to the condemned cell [death row], changing his clothes,” he said.
However, he said Mollah had learnt about the death sentence from TV in his neighbouring prison cells.
“We have not seen any perceivable change in him, but he looked a little down in the afternoon,” he added.
The first of the six charges against Mollah was related to the killing of Mirpur Bangla College student Pallab in Mirpur on April 5, 1971. Tribunal-2 and the Supreme Court found Mollah guilty and the Supreme Court upheld the tribunal’s sentence of 15 years in jail.
The second charge related to the killing of the poet Meherunesa, her mother and two brothers on March 27, 1971, in Mirpur. Tribunal-2 and the Supreme Court found Mollah guilty and the Supreme Court upheld the tribunal’s sentence of 15 years in jail.
The third charge involved the killing of journalist Khandker Abu Taleb on March 29, 1971, in Mirpur. Both the courts found Mollah guilty and the apex court upheld the tribunal’s sentence of 15 years in jail.
The fourth charge was about a mass killing in Ghatarchar of Keraniganj on November 25, 1971, where hundreds had been murdered. The tribunal had acquitted him on this charge but yesterday the Supreme Court pronounced him guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The fifth charge was related to Mollah’s involvement in the killing of 344 people in Alubdi village in Mirpur on April 24, 1971. Both the courts found him guilty and the apex court upheld the tribunal’s life imprisonment awarded to him.
The sixth and final charge was related to the killing of Hazrat Ali Laskar, his wife, three daughters and his two-year-old son on March 26, in Mirpur. One of the three daughters was raped.
His eldest daughter was raped too but she survived and testified against Mollah. The tribunal had found him guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment but yesterday the apex court changed the sentence to capital punishment.
Headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain, the bench also included Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, Justice MA Wahhab Miah, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik.
On August 2, 2010, Quader Mollah was shown arrested in the war crimes case and on May 28, 2012, he was indicted on six charges.

  • Sara

    everyone is equal under the law…

    • truthprevails53

      Your utopian world does not exist. I suggest you stop your futile support for these monsters. A thief gets beaten to death for stealing 20 tk and this rapist, killer was leading a very comfortable life. He should have been killed million times.

  • Sara

    The purpose of a trial is to determine the circumstances leading to the acts of the defendant under trial… the outcome of the trial determines whether the defendant committed the act and whether the circumstances surrounding the act classify the defendant as a criminal… for example, verdict for self-defense or accident would be different from a verdict for a premeditated act…

    Even under Shariah law, one deserves a trial by more than one judge or juror…even the Shariah does not advocate unconditional eye-for-an-eye verdicts… the intentions of the defendant are taken into consideration… furthermore, there is the concept of blood-money that might be accepted by the kin of a deceased in exchange for granting life to a killer…

  • TruthnLie

    Please don’t take it in other way. What Sara has explained about Sharia law is very educative and informative. Her intention was not to dilute the importance of the matter in the lime light that is mollah .. a convicted hyena of 1971 handed down death penalty for his nasty and grisly acts during the liberation war!

  • Sara

    correct… even if any other family member, except the surviving daughter, were alive, blood money would most likely not have been accepted in this case…

    nonetheless, the option exists… for example, in mid-2010, one or more Bangladeshis were sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for murder of a Pakistani citizen… the family of the slain demanded about Tk. 1 crore equivalent as blood money… eventually, the prime minister learnt of the matter and arranged payment, in exchange of the lives of the convict(s)…

    to clarify:
    - I support the verdict of Mollah
    - this post is intended to be informative, not a defence
    - the crimes of the individuals described are not compared to the crimes of Mollah

    • ssasa

      See the thing here in Bangladesh is justice delayed is justice denied . We all know that people like Qader Mollah are guilty , they deserve death for that ; and if we give any leeway they will get away from the clutch of justice .
      Shariah law is not practiced in BD , and even under the existing law Qader Mollah should walk to gallows . The only problem is implementation of the law , not the interpretation of the law .

  • ssasa

    Well it has been 42 years since ’71 ; its obvious that there is a problem in implementation of the law .

  • Saleh Tanveer

    Never mind Kader Molla. Should it bother us that a government can change the law and apply it retroactively when it does not like the outcome of a process ? Will we keep applauding retroactive application of laws from this point onwards by other governments as well or will we find it unacceptable at some point ? Just because we like the outcome in this case, aren’t we sacrificing a widely accepted principle of fairness in all criminal trials ? These are points to ponder for all of us; I hope you agree.