BANGLADESH: End the politically chosen ‘disposable’ attorney and prosecutorial system

January 14, 2009

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

BANGLADESH: End the politically chosen ‘disposable’ attorney and prosecutorial system

The Attorney General of Bangladesh, Mr Salahuddin Ahmed, resigned from his position on January 12, 2009. He was quoted in BD, a Bangladeshi wire news agency, as saying that he submitted his resignation “…in line with the tradition that the attorney general resigns after a new government takes over”. 

His resignation from office is one of the many examples of the politicisation of the attorney service in Bangladesh. According to media reports, Mr Mahbubey Alam, a pro-Awami League lawyer who served as an additional attorney general during the past Awami League regime, is going to occupy the position. 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is aware that Ahmed was appointed as an additional attorney general and promoted to attorney general by the recent military-controlled interim government, during the state of emergency. 

Moreover, the AHRC has been receiving information that the Awami Ainjibi Parishad, an association of lawyers attached to the current ruling political party, and the leaders of the Bangladesh Awami League, have already been selecting the names of lawyers across the country for appointment as prosecutors. 

The AHRC is aware that in Bangladesh the whole structure of attorneys and prosecutors is removed as a new government takes power. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a sister organisation of the AHRC, published a special report – Focus: Prosecutions in Asia – in which it elaborated on ‘the disposable prosecutors of Bangladesh’. This report notes that those appointed because of their political affiliation were mostly unable to be of use to the judiciary in delivering justice to the people of Bangladesh. 

The stability of attorney and prosecutor positions needs to be taken into serious consideration for the sake of public faith in the country’s system of justice, currently at a low. Take the case of the bomb blast that took place at a cultural function of Udichi at the Munshi Meherullah Maidan in the southwestern city of Jessore on March 7, 1999; at least 10 persons were killed and several others left with permanent physical disabilities. On June 28, 2006, the judge acquitted all 23 persons accused, observing that “the state and the witnesses failed to prove the charges against the accused beyond doubt”. 

This whole incident makes one wonder why the system fails so consistently in Bangladesh; what should be done to address these ongoing failures and improve the basic functioning of legal institutions? 

In a given situation, the same old use of politically affiliated attorneys and prosecutors will not only question the competence of law officers and the credibility of the prosecutorial service in Bangladesh, but also multiply the problems of the country’s people. 

Meanwhile the government and concerned members of civil society should begin an open discourse on what the seekers of justice really need. For the sake of understanding and progress, the authorities should initiate debates on whether the country should keep the ‘hire and fire’ system for attorneys and prosecutors, or whether the prosecutorial service should be under an independent and permanent institution, with competent, committed and experienced professionals who can act without fear or favour. The nation should clarify whether they need law officers as an institution to propel the justice delivery system, or as another political wing of the ruling political alliance. 

The AHRC urges the newly elected government of Bangladesh to end the use of a ‘disposable prosecution system’. Politicising such public institutions must be stopped for the sake of social and institutional justice.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-016-2009
Countries : Bangladesh,