Bangladesh: Fresh death sentences show urgent need to end executions

Bangladesh must immediately impose a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty and ensure that political interference does not mar judicial processes, Amnesty International said after the confirmation of two fresh death sentences over two days.

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court today upheld the death sentence against Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, a senior leader of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party. Kamaruzzaman was first sentenced to death in May 2013, on charges of involvement in killings, by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a Bangladeshi court examining the events of the country’s 1971 Independence War.

“The relentless push to impose death sentences in Bangladesh is deeply worrying. After a hiatus of nine months since the last death sentence was announced, three more men have now been sentenced to the gallows in the space of less than a week,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher.

“Far from bringing justice to the millions of victims of the Independence War and their family members, executions will only perpetuate a cycle of violence.”

On Sunday 2 November, the ICT sentenced to death another Jamaat leader, Mir Quasem Ali. This followed a ruling last week, on 29 October, when the most senior Jamaat leader, Motiur Rahman Nizami, was also sentenced to death.

All of the ICT’s 12 verdicts since it was established in 2009 have come against members of opposition parties, mainly individuals associated with Jamaat-e-Islami. Nine of these have been death sentences.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kamaruzzaman’s appeal, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina said the death sentences would be carried out and the Attorney General said in media interviews that there would be no possibility of any other judicial remedy.

The Constitution guarantees the right of defendants to apply for a review of the judgment issued by the Supreme Court as the last avenue of appeal. But the Attorney General’s statement against the possibility of any more reviews appears to undermine this right.

“The outcome of ICT proceedings have become intensely politicized. The government must not bow to political pressure from its supporters, but instead immediately commute all death sentences in the country and impose a moratorium on executions with a view to full abolition,” said Abbas Faiz.

As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Bangladesh was one of only nine countries that carried out executions every year between 2009 and 2013.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.