BANGLADESH: Judiciary cannot derogate from the universally recognized principles 

Bangladesh celebrates the 42nd year of its independence at the moment while the nation is found to be still debating over the truths of its history related to the war of independence. The country has witnessed manipulation of public institutions, even judiciary, on the part of the successive governments, to distort historical facts in favour of the government.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has paid attention to a New Age report titled, “HC asks BOU [Bangladesh Open University] to sue 17 teachers” published on March 7, 2012, and similar reports in other national dailies. According to the report, “The High Court on Tuesday asked Bangladesh Open University authorities to sue, in 24 hours, 17 teachers, three of them of Dhaka University for mentioning in two BOU textbooks that Ziaur Rahman proclaimed independence of the country. The court asked the BOU authorities to sue the teachers on the charge of distorting the history of the liberation war in its textbooks.”

According to the report, the court said while hearing the writ petition, “Those who distorted history should be hanged to death as they committed treason.” The court asked the two parliamentarians of the party in power to arrange a ship and send the professors to Pakistan. The court said, “We will deal with the issue with an iron hand.” It continued, “Those, who were against the creation of Bangladesh, want to show Ziaur Rahman [former president of Bangladesh and husband of the leader of the opposition, Begum Khaleda Zia] in positive light in the history of liberation as he was not an actual freedom fighter”. The Court also said, “If they [the professors] are allowed to stay in Bangladesh they would continue to work to make it Pakistan.” During a hearing on March 12, 2012, the same High Court Bench reiterated its earlier statement that these professors should be hanged to death, according to the national dailies.

This is absolutely under the jurisdiction of the High Court of Bangladesh to decide, as per the Constitution and relevant laws of the land, as to whether it will hear a given complaint brought before it by an aggrieved party. Yet, the judiciary has fundamental obligation to follow universally accepted norm of presumption of innocence of the defendants for ensuring fair trial recognised in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). No court is entitled to derogate from the principle of equality before law guaranteed as fundamental right in Article 27 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. The court, which declares during only the hearings of the writ petition and before the completion of its verdict that the defendants should be hanged to death, goes against the basic principles of justice.

The Asian Human Rights Commission expresses its serious concern over such derogation on the part of the High Court. The Court cannot use abusive words to any person who is facing a trial because every person has the fundamental right to dignity inherent in him, recognized in Article 10 of the ICCPR. The court’s remarks to send the defendants to another country and hang them to death amount to intimidation, and eventually, a derogation from all the internationally recognized standards and the constitution of Bangladesh.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-072-2012
Countries : Bangladesh,
Issues : Death penalty, Judicial system, Rule of law,