New York, (IANS) The prosecution teams conducting the mass trials of the alleged mutineers of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) must immediately stop the trials, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, a day after a mass trial in a military court led to the conviction of 611 of the 621 accused.
Mass trials to date have shown numerous violations of the right to a fair trial, especially the impossibility of lawyers to give proper advice and preparation for each individual, it said.
Human Rights Watch urged the Bangladesh government to establish an independent investigative and prosecutorial task force with sufficient expertise, authority and resources to rigorously probe and prosecute allegations of unlawful conduct during the mutiny.
“Those responsible for killing 74 people during the February 2009 mutiny by the border guards should be held accountable – but only in trials that meet international fair trial standards and the guarantees of the Bangladeshi constitution,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“The government should halt all trials for the horrific crimes committed in the mutiny until the system is changed to ensure that each accused receives a fair trial.”
On Feb 25-26, 2009, members of the BDR, since renamed the Bangladesh Border Guards, staged a mutiny against their commanding officers, killing 74 and injuring many others.
Some victims were subjected to sexual violence.
Under pressure from the army, which had urged the government to use overwhelming force against the BDR compound in a heavily populated area of Dhaka, the government responded with mass arrests of more than 6,000 BDR members from different units around the country.
To date, some 4,000 have been found guilty by military tribunals. In addition, 847 of the accused also face charges under the Bangladesh Criminal Code, some of which carry the death penalty.