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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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War Crimes Trial

Tribunal chief quits over Skype scandal

Govt says resignation of Justice Nizamul won't affect trial; Jamaat wants dismantling of tribunal; BNP demands his trial

International Crimes Tribunal-1 Chairman Justice Md Nizamul Huq resigned yesterday amid controversy over the leak of his Skype conversation with an expatriate Bangladeshi legal expert.

Justice Huq mentioned “personal reasons” for his resignation, State Minister for Law and Justice Quamrul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday evening.

His resignation would not hamper the proceedings at the tribunal set up in 2010 to try the cases over crimes against humanity, said sources concerned.

They said the tribunal would continue with the proceedings while a successor to Justice Huq is appointed.

Meanwhile, the main opposition BNP has called for trial of Justice Huq for “misdeeds”, and Jamaat-e-Islami, the top brass of which are under trial at the two war crimes tribunals, wants dissolution of both the courts.

Tribunal-1 is dealing with four cases -- one each against former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam, Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, Nayeb-e-Ameer Delawar Hossain Sayedee and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

The trial of Sayedee's case is awaiting judgement.

According to section 6 (4) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, the government could now declare the office of the Tribunal-1 chairman vacant and appoint a new judge.

As per the act, the government could do this "If any member of a tribunal dies or is, due to illness or any other reason, unable to continue to perform his functions".

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told The Daily Star that a new judge was likely to be appointed today but the government was yet to decide who would be the new judge.

He too said the resignation of Justice Huq would not hamper the trial proceedings at the tribunal. As per the law, Tribunal-1 judges would continue with the proceedings of cases and that Justice Huq would return to his office of a High Court judge, he said.

Section 6 (6) of the act reads, "A tribunal shall not merely by reason of any change in its membership or the absence of any member thereof from any sitting, be bound to recall and re-hear any witness who has already given any evidence and may act on the evidence already given or produced before it".

The new judge might take some time for studying the cases to get up to speed, said the minister.

Justice Huq handed the registrar of the tribunal his resignation letter addressed to President Zillur Rahman.

The registrar later sent it to the law ministry for forwarding it to the Bangabhaban through the Prime Minister's Office today.

The controversy surrounding Justice Huq began after Bangla national daily Amar Desh published “transcript of Skype conversation” of Justice Huq with expatriate Bangladeshi Ahmed Ziauddin, a law expert on international crimes.

The newspaper said it had collected the records of the conversation from a source abroad.

In the “transcript” of the conversation, Justice Huq was judgemental of a number of legal experts of the country and people involved in the crimes against humanity cases, according to Amar Desh.

On December 6, two days before the paper began publishing the “transcript”, the three-member Tribunal-1 led by Justice Huq in an order said Justice Huq's email and Skype accounts along with his computer had been hacked.

In the order, it was revealed that British magazine The Economist had in its possession the correspondence between the tribunal chief and the law expert based in Brussels.

Justice Huq in the order had also said he occasionally discussed developments on international criminal law with Ahmed Ziauddin, who is an expert in that field.

Justice Huq also said the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, was a new law. To understand the law, it was necessary for the judges to look into the process and orders of different tribunals and consult with experts.

He said he has had the privilege of consulting with Ahmed Ziauddin.

After the Bangla daily published the “transcript”, the content of the

“transcript” became an issue of debate and pro-BNP and -Jamaat lawyers demanded Justice Huq's resignation on Monday.

The BNP yesterday demanded trial of Justice Huq and said he has to face trial in future for his “misdeeds”.

"The government has tainted the judiciary and everything that he [Justice Huq] has done was criminal offence. He had no way but to resign. But he has to face trial," BNP standing committee member MK Anwar said at a press briefing at the party's central office in Nayapaltan.

Jamaat-e-Islami said it would now raise the demand for total scrapping of both the tribunals.

Matiur Rahman Akanda, assistant publicity secretary of Jamaat, told The Daily Star last night, “After the scrapping of the tribunals, the government will have to start the legal process to amend the International Crimes Tribunal Act and make it of international standards.”

Giving his reaction to Justice Huq stepping down, Matiur said, “Our allegation against Justice Nizamul Huq that he is a partisan man has been proved right. And we will now go for the demand of total scrapping of the tribunals.”

The party would also call for hartal-like programmes if the government did not meet their demands, he added.

Meanwhile, a law ministry official requesting anonymity told The Daily Star that the ministry would ask the Supreme Court for a High Court judge to replace Justice Huq.

Getting a name from the Supreme Court, the ministry would place it before the president, via the Prime Minister's Office, and the president would appoint the new judge.

Tribunal-1 is set to deliver the verdict on the case against Sayedee. It is now recording the testimony of the first defence witness in the case against Ghulam Azam.

So far, 16 prosecution witnesses testified and were cross-examined in the case against BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.

The tribunal recorded testimony and cross-examination of one prosecution witness in the case against Nizami.

Resignation of a war crimes tribunal judge is not unprecedented. In recent times, two judges in the Khmer Rouge war trials in Cambodia have stood down.

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Justice Huq's decision is admirable as next generation judges will respect Code of Conduct of the Judges.

: Sohul Ahmed, Lawyer of the Supreme Court of England & Bangladesh

That is a very respectable thing to do and we salute you to have such integrity. People in higher paces won't commit wrong doing- that is absurd. But to have courage and moral strength to admit it and take responsibility is a very different dimension of it. Our politician and bureaucrats should take lesson from this great example. We wish you all the best in your next venture.

: Sheikh Monirul Islam, Opee


  • Iftikhar-ul-Awwal
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:49 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Justice Md Nizanul Huq has tarnished the image of the ICT beyond measure by impinging upon the confidential nature of court proceedings. By improper discussions and disclosures with parties, he strayed from standard judicial conduct. His conversations with a private person were not only unethical but may have a prejudicial effect on the administration of the business of the courts. People are now aware of many unknown damaging secrets regarding the nature and involvement of interested parties in the ICT trials. Justice Nizamul Huq’s resignation does not solve the matter of judicial misconduct nor will the appointment of a new judge bring back people's confidence in the court proceedings.

  • abdun noor
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:49 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    It is good that he has resigned. In order to have a fare trial the whole tribunal system need changing.

  • Translucent
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:54 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    I welcome Justice Huq's dignified resignation. Now, the contents of his Skype conversation have to be analysed. The credibility of the whole trial now is in question. The AL has put us in yet another mess! Can this party do anything that will have support of undivided Bangladesh?

  • Jumana Sarwar
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 01:05 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    I think Justice Nizamul did the right thing by resigning. But the ground for whom he resigns still hangs on his shoulder- that is to say the loss of integrity as a judge. He by no means fit for judge to any court.

  • Misbah Uddin Sumon
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 01:16 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    It is a matter of regret! If justice leak secret information of tribunal how can we rely on our judiciary system? Only Almighty know where will go this War Crimes Trial!

  • Nick
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 01:35 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Whatever has happened, the trial of the killers and rapists of 1971 must continue. It is the least we can do for the memories of our martyrs.

  • Roni Rahman
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 01:39 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    He had to resign as he compromised the integrity of the ICT by involving in solicitation of opinions and discussions from activist individual and groups, outside the court's process. It's as simple as that.

  • Robin
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 01:58 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    The judge was irresponsible and may have committed a crime. The media did their job. It is the judge who should be punished, not media.

  • Ishtiaq Ahmad
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 02:05 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Is there no law over hacking in Bangladesh..! It can go either way for Amar Desh newspaper just as British tabloid the News of the World. One thing for sure it is a violation of individual rights. Hacking an individual's personal conversation is bad. Media should play strong role by discouraging it. Above all, it is for sure people who want to interrupt War Crimes tribunal's actions are strong community. Strong role should be taken against them. War crime justice is people's as well as nation's demand.

  • Mahfuz
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 02:15 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    How such a person can be judge of high court? He should be impeached immediately. ICT is not a credible and transparent court where justice can be served.

  • Dr,Quamrul.Makkah
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 02:22 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    What goes wrong in discussing matters related with fellow professionalism? Rather one should appreciate the concerned judge for keenness so that a correct verdict is delivered.

  • Dev Saha
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 03:01 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Pretty amateurish! What was he thinking?

  • nuton
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 03:03 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Good for you Justice Nizamul but bad for the democracy of Bangladesh.

  • Concerned citizen
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 03:15 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    The alleged conversation revealed a lot of things that tarnished the credibility of the tribunal. This does not seem to be a mere consultation, which could have been professionally done via 'amicus curie' and like approved procedures. The mainstream media must not ignore the allegation just because BNP-backed lawyers raised the issue or a daily run by not-a-mainstream-editor ran the report. We never support wire taping or hacking and we never support million-dollar lobbying by alleged war-criminals; end does not justify the means, but that's another issue. The issue at hand seems much graver; demand for Supreme Judicial Council's action seems quite rational. The DS, unfortunately, gave a blind eye to the procedures of war crimes trial out of its stance, just and praiseworthy though, against war crimes in 1971. However, this way The DS and most of the media contributed to the debacle of trial of war criminals that we are experiencing. The alleged conversation also revealed govt. influence in appointing Judges and above all, govt. influence in delivering verdicts. Honourable Chief Justice ignored Parliament's recent call to discipline one SC Justice; we hope he will take appropriate action this time for the sake of upholding the image of SC.

  • MobyK
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 04:00 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    The judge and the tribunal have lost all their credibility. The only way to have a fair trial is through the UN. Otherwise, whoever AL nominates to this corrupt judge's position will also be full of agenda. It is pretty evident that AL is using this tribunal not to bring the actual perpetrators to justice but to score political points and maim the opposition parties.

  • Barkat
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 04:14 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Either the Judge himself or the government might be involved in this leak. It is beyond doubt that in such a high profile case the judge is not aware about the hacking problem in social media like facebook or emails. The fact could be that either the judge or the government is trying to find an exit strategy for the national dram of in the name of War Crime. We hope nothing but honest and free judgement will be delivered. Or else this justice will be a gross injustice.

  • Nagorik
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 05:13 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Whatever happens, I must salute Justice Md Nizamul Huq over his resignation. He did the right thing, unlike corrupt Abul Hussain and Suranjit Sengupta who does not have any shame.

  • Jamshed Marker
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 05:26 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Now it is time for the government to announce resign. This is an unthinkable situation happening all over the judiciary system in Bangladesh. The judges are maltreated as their experience is not recognised for promotion and inexperienced and unqualified people in the legal system are being promoted as judges. The result is product like so-called Justice Md Nizamul Huq. God save Bangladesh!

  • Shabbir A Bashar
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 06:51 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Good riddance! A judge who does not have the sense to realise that a sub judice matter cannot be discussed openly and with random people has no business being a judge. He has brought the judiciary a great deal of shame.

  • Wazih Zakigonj
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 07:27 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    I request The Daily Star to publish email contract, Skype conversation of Nizamul and Zia Uddin as if the people of BD will know the truth.

  • jahan ara
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 08:45 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Not only is the probity of the tribunals but even the constitution and procedures of the tribunals being questioned abroad including the British House of Lords. America, the benefactor, is also watching.

  • Talat Islam
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 08:56 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Economist must have got nice donation from somewhere.

  • Harun Rashid
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 09:00 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Consultation with an expert how could be a problem rather who raised this question their motive behind it could be questioned. I do believe Justice Huq's resignation would set up a milestone for the transparent trail. Jamaat and Jamaat liking BNP leaders can cry but ultimately won't scarp the trail or save the war criminals. It is not AL's issue it is the demand of peoples of Bangladesh except some anti liberation fanatic elements.

  • Shahabuddin Ahmed
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 09:28 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    We expect resignation. We can not believe the justice resignation would not hamper the proceedings.

  • Dev Saha
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 09:33 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    I was listening the whole conversation and I am totally shocked. How could this happen to a judge, who has been dealing with an important case. He should not have consulted with anybody, let alone with a political person with biased mind.

  • S.m. Amir Faisal
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 09:57 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    It is a great shame.

  • Khondaker Shahirul Islam
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 10:03 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Justice Nizamul Huq could have shown his courage completing the proceedings of international crimes tribunal-1and that could have been much applauded by the millions of people of Bangladesh rather than his resignation.

  • Omar
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 10:32 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    This person should never have been appointed as the judge to the tribunal especially because of his known preordained bias. The whole matter is now in shambles.

  • Reaz Hassan
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 10:38 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Justice Nizamul Huq has obviously lost the high moral ground to officiate as a judge. For sure, he would have faced impeachment or would have resigned for breach of confidentiality and impropriety even in neighbouring countries where democracy is still facing a challenge.

  • Rahman
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 11:05 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    What a mockery of justice. This entire trial is a mistrial.

  • Mohd. Ruhul Amin Sikder
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 11:31 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    This is outright uncalled for. Justice Nizamul says he is privileged to have consultation with any expert about the trial. But the question arises as to whether he has done it in an official way. Why did he do it on the sly without keeping anyone concerned in the loop? Moreover, from his conversation it is quite evident that there has been pressure from government on the judges which defies all norms of judiciary.

  • Ismail hossen fahad
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:12 PM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    I request to The Daily Star to publish the Skype conversation between Nizamul Huq and Ziauddin. Now people want to know the truth about ICT.

  • N. Rahim -- Toronto
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:15 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    Mr Sengupta, So, you do not see any misconduct by the judge?

  • rch
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:27 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    I do not think consulting with an expert is a problem--Justice Huq took the moral high ground by resigning which is totally absent in BD--Look at Abul, Muhith and Suranjit....these people shamelessly walking around with the blessing of their leader.

  • masum
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:37 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    the Skype scandal is the most dangerous then Watergate scandal. Tribunal is corrupted. Gov should free Jamaat leaders.

  • saif khan
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:41 AM GMT+06:00 (165 weeks ago)

    The credibility of the Tribunal has been totally lost and have been proven to be motivated by the AL party. The resignation of the tribunal chief has has proven.





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