Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Why foreign counsels not allowed in Bangladesh war crimes tribunal

The International Crimes Tribunal(ICT) has been empowered to try and punish any individual irrespective of his nationality but foreign lawyers have been barred from appearing before the ICT,due to legal complexities, to assist accused persons, concerned lawyers said. 

The matter has attracted attention of the concerned foreigners including US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen J Rapp.

After the defence team raised question about not permitting the foreign lawyers, Stephen J Rapp on Sunday reportedly wanted to know its reason from the ICT judges when he met them at the tribunal, deputy registrar of ICT Mesbahuddin Ahmed said. Stephen was told that the Bangladesh Bar Council did not permit foreign lawyers due to legal barriers.

According to Section 3 of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973, the ICT is empowered to try and punish any individual or group of individuals, or any member of any armed, defence or auxiliary forces, irrespective of his nationality, for committing some crimes.

The crimes include: crimes against humanity and peace, genocide, war crimes, violation of any humanitarian rules of the Geneva Conventions-1949, any other crimes under international law,attempt, abetment or conspiracy to commit any such crimes, complicity in or failure to prevent commission of any such crimes.

As per Clause 42 of the ICT Rules-2010, the tribunal did permit the foreign counsels to appear before it for any party-- defence or prosecution-- on condition of permission from the Bangladesh Bar Council for them to do so.

In line with the ICT Rules, the defence of detained Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayedee earlier filed an application to the bar council on July 19 this year seeking its permission to allow three foreign lawyers- Steven Kay QC, Toby Cadman and John Cammegh -- to appear before the ICT.

But the statutory body, Bar Council in its written reply informed that defence lawyers that it has no authority to grant the application for giving permission to the foreign lawyers.

The President Order No. 46 of1972 governing the Bar Council has no provision to permit or give certificate to any foreign lawyers, except the Bangladeshi citizens, to conduct cases in any Bangladeshi court or tribunal, the council in its July 23 decision mentioned. 

Moreover, there is no opportunity to give certificate to anybody if he/she don't pass the bar council's examination, the council observed.

However, BNP standing committee member Barrister Moudud Ahmed at a function on November 22 said he had brought a British lawyer Sir Thomas Williams for defending Bangbandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the Agortala conspiracy case in 1968.

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