Syed Mohammed Hasan

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 07.06.2016 )
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facts

Syed Mohammed Hasan was born on 18 August 1947 in Brahmanbarhia, Pakistan. He was the commander of Tarail Razakar Bahini, an auxiliary force of the Pakistani army during the Bangladesh Liberation War. Hasan allegedly set up a camp of the auxiliary force of the Pakistani occupation army at Tarail Police Station on 23 April 1971.

Hasan was allegedly involved in setting fire to and looting seven houses belonging to victim Hasan Ahmed Sadot Ali, of Sachail Purbopara village, on 27 April 1971.

Hasan is further alleged to have been involved in the abduction and confinement of three persons in Konavawal village, on 23 August 1971.  Their houses were plundered and one of them, Abdul Zahid Bhuiyan, was tortured. Another one, Tofazzol Hossain Bhuiyan, was murdered while trying to escape.

Hasan was also purportedly involved in the killing of 12 persons and the torching of 10 houses in Shumulhati village on 9 September 1971.

On 27 September 1971, Hasan allegedly killed eight people and abducted ten others in Borgaon village. Furthermore, Hasan was alleged to be involved in the abduction and later killing of Kamini Kumar Ghosh and Jibon Thakur and the looting of Ghosh’s house in Araiura village on 8 October 1971.

On 11 December 1971, Hasan purportedly killed Abdur Rashid and set fire to 100 houses in Pacchimpara of Sachail village.

The investigation against Hasan began on 6 June 2013. The prosecution sought an arrest warrant for Hasan, which was delivered on 3 April 2014, while the investigation was still ongoing. An indictment was issued against him on 21 August 2014.

legal procedure

The investigation against Hasan began on 6 June 2013. The prosecution sought an arrest warrant for Hasan, which was delivered on 3 April 2014, while the investigation was still ongoing. An indictment was issued against him on 21 August 2014.

The Tribunal also ordered the registrar office to take necessary steps in publishing advertisements in national dailies asking the accused to appear before the court. However, Hasan could not be arrested.

On 15 September 2014, Abdus Shukur Khan was appointed as defence counsel by the Tribunal.

The trial against Hasan began in absentia on 11 November 2014. 26 prosecution witnesses were heard between 7 December 2014 and 31 March 2015. The defence did not introduce any witness.

The judgment was delivered on 9 June 2015. Hasan was convicted of five of the six charges against him. The Tribunal applied the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act enacted in 1973. Hasan was found guilty of murder, abduction, deportation confinement, torture and plundering as crimes against humanity, and genocide. Thus, he was sentenced to imprisonment for life until natural death, and to death.

During one month after this verdict, Hasan had the possibility to file an appeal. However, he was not arrested and did not surrender, and the deadline has now expired.

spotlight

Hasan is the fifth person to be convicted in absentia since the trials started in front of the Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal in 2010.

context

THE 1971 BANGLADESH LIBERATION WAR

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.