Mohibur Rahman

05.08.2016 ( Last modified: 27.02.2017 )
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Facts

Mohibur Rahman was born on 1 January 1950 in Kumurshan, in what is currently Bangladesh.

Mohibur Rahman, his brother Mojibur Rahman and his cousin Abdur Razzak were said to be strong followers of Syed Kamrul Ahsan, a local potential leader of Nejam-e-Islami, a pro-Pakistani political organisation. They allegedly sided against the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 and joined the local Razakar, a paramilitary force organized by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan during the Liberation War. The local Razakar Camp and torture cell was reportedly located in Syed Kamrul Ahsan’s house, in the village of Khagaura.

According to the Prosecutor, the Rahman brothers and their cousin Razzak were involved in the following incidents:

  • One day in February or March 1971, with a group of Razakars, they captured a civilian and brought him to the Razakara Camp, where he was subjected to torture and physical assault that resulted in fracture of one of his hands. They detained him there for one day and one night.
  • On 26 October 1971, accompanied by a group of armed Razakars and Pakistani soldiers, they were accused of having launched an attack against a number of houses belonging to civilians of the Hindu community, causing great destruction by looting households and setting the houses on fire. On the same day, a number of the Pakistani soldiers were said to have raped two women in presence of the Rahman brothers and Razzak.
  • On 11 November 1971, accompanied by a group of armed Razakars, on Mohibur Rahman orders, the three accused allegedly raided the house of an independentist, resulting in the death of two civilians. They furthermore captured another civilian and took him to the Razakar Camp where he was subjected to torture.

Legal procedure

In 2009, the wife of a murdered independentist filed a criminal case before the Habiganj Judicial Magistrate’s Court. The case was later transferred to the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). An investigation looking into the accusations was started on 11 Febrary 2014.

The Rahman brothers and Razzak were arrested on 10 February 2015, pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

On 29 September 2015, the ICT indicted the Rahman brothers and their cousin, Abdur Razzak, following the submission of formal charges by the Prosecutor on 17 May 2015. They were all charged with participating, facilitating, abetting and for complicity to the commission of the following crimes against humanity: murder, rape, abduction, confinement, torture and other inhumane acts.

 

Their trial before the ICT started on 29 September 2015. They denied having been part of the local Razakar and pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

On 1 June 2016, the ICT found them guily of all the charges brought against them. Mohibur Rahman was sentenced to the death penalty for the crimes against humanity of murder, committed under his order. Mojibur Rahman and Razzak were condemned to imprisonment for life.

On 30 June 2016, they filed an appeal against the judgment before the Bangladeshi Supreme Court.

 

Context

The 1947 partition of India resulted in the emergence of the country of Pakistan out of two territories: West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) and East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh). As a response to the Awami League victory in the 1970 general elections, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight on 25 March 1971, a massive military operation designed to curb the nationalist movement in East Pakistan. The armed conflict became known as the “Liberation War” and lasted until 16 December 1971.

The conflict involved widespread killings and other atrocities –forced displacement, disappearances, destruction and confiscation of property, torture and sexual violence– carried out by the Pakistan Army with the assistance of religious and political groups from East and West Pakistan. The exact number of victims of the conflict is not established. Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were killed while a Pakistan Government investigation states the figure of 26,000. The conflict also led to a major humanitarian crisis, with eight to ten millions refugees fleeing to India. Sexual violence was allegedly used as a weapon of war, with an estimated 200.000 women victims of rape.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMES TRIBUNAL ACT (ICTA)

On 20 June 1973, the ICTA was adopted to provide for the prosecution of any persons for “crimes against humanity, genocide, crimes against peace, war crimes, violation of any humanitarian rules and any other crimes under international law” committed in Bangladesh. The ICTA, using the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal Charter as a template, was to serve as a basis for a national tribunal.

However, efforts ended with the military coup of 1975. The new regime also repealed the 1972 Collaborator’s Act, which had been designed to bring to account those who had collaborated with the Pakistan Army. As a result, prosecutions of “collaborators” who did not fall under the 30 November 1973 amnesty were stopped, and all those detained and convicted were pardoned and released.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMES TRIBUNAL (ICT)

In 2008, the ICTA was resuscitated in the election manifesto of the Awami League. In 2009, the elected Awami League government adopted a resolution to initiate the establishment of a civilian court, which led to the 2009 amendment of the ICTA. In March 2010, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) was set up and its Rules of Procedure were adopted on 15 July 2010.

The ICT has generated criticism from the international community, including the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the US Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues. This criticism mainly addresses the lack of fair trial standards. The European Union has also voiced its concern with regards to the potential application of the death penalty.

LIMITATIONS TO THE TRIAL OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMES

Several legislative and executive orders granted immunity to groups involved in the 1971 Liberation War. In February 1973, shortly before the ICTA, the Bangladesh National Liberation Struggle (Indemnity) Order granted immunity to all freedom fighters for acts committed in connection with the “Liberation Struggle”. On 30 November 1973, a general amnesty was declared for all Bangladesh citizens who had collaborated with the Pakistan Army, with the exception of those accused of murder, rape, arson or genocide. Finally, the early 1974 tripartite agreement organised the return of Pakistani prisoners of wars, including those accused of committing war crimes, without charging them.

The ICTA was, however, never repealed. It provides for the prosecution of Bangladeshi nationals who were not granted immunity for international crimes committed during the Liberation War.