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Mar 02

Trial of Sayedee – Has justice been served?

I admit I’m no law junkie and neither do I have credible certified knowledge on the subject of law. But its goes without mention that one cannot avoid the implications that a judgement of law can have in the greater scheme of things, particularly when that judgement is paramount to writing and perhaps re-writing the history of a nation.
I have had a cursory look at the verdict of Allama Delwar Hossain Sayedee handed out by the International Crimes Tribunal and these are my simple observations,
1. The verdict is full of spelling mistakes, which alludes to the fact that it was hastily written. Either that, or one has to come to the conclusion that those who have written the verdict are lacking in suitability.
2. The verdict mentions that ” The right to move the Supreme Court for calling any
law relating to internationally recognised crimes in question by the persons charged with crimes against humanity and genocide has been taken away by the provision of Article 47A(2) of the Constitution. Since the accused has been prosecuted for offences recognized as international crimes as mentioned in the Act of 1973 he does not have right to call in question any provision of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973
or any of amended provisions thereto.” This is tantamount to a Bengali saying, “বিচার মানি কিন্তু তাল গাছটা আমার “, or “Even though I believe in justice, what I say is justice”. Hopefully the quote is self explanatory, since the court has been put above any scrutiny or legal accountability, something that democratic country should not endorse.
3. A recurring statement in the verdict was the fact that he could speak Urdu very well. This has been shown as a contributing evidence to a possible closeness with the Pakistani army. That has further been shown as a possible reason of him been a member of auxiliary forces. That is a lot of maybe’s.
4. A statement in the verdict states that, “It is emphatically submitted (by the defence) that the offences enumerated in the 1973 Act are not well defined and as such it will cause prejudice the accused in preparing its own defence.” When it tries to refute this claim by the defence by providing a non precise generalized definition of such ‘crimes against humanity’, it simply raises more questions than answers.
5. Was Sayedee a razakar? The verdict says that 11 of the witnesses in hearsay statements said that he was a prominent razakar in 1971. But they haven’t been able to show documented evidence. All the documented evidence seems to come from newspaper clippings from as late as 2001, 2007 and 2009. So what? The verdict says, “Upon scrutiny of the oral evidence adduced by P.W. 5 coupled with documentary evidence, it is well-proved that the accused was a prominent member of Razakar Bahini of parerhat area during the War of LIberation and he actively participated in different atrocious activities committed by local Razakar Bahini in association with Pakistani occupation forces. The above mentioned oral and documentary evidence are sufficient to hold that prosecution has successfully proved the status the accused as a member of auxiliary force…..”    
6. Compare the above point with the following plea of alibi by the defense. It reads,”On behalf of the accused Delowar Hossain Sayeedi a plea has been taken to the effect that since before starting the war of Liberation of Bangaldesh he used to reside in Jessore and he came back to his village home at Pirojpur in the middle of July, 1971. The defence has examined D.W.4 Md. Abul Hossain, D.W.6 Ramjan Ali, D.W.8 Md. Kubad Ali, D.W.12 Md. Hafizul Hoq and D.W.14 Md. Emran Hossain to prove the plea that accused used to reside in Jessore till middle of July, 1971.” So how does the court reject that? The ploy is as follows. All witnesses said that at that time he had two children. The prosecution had provided the copy of Sayedee’s Nomination paper for National Assembly election which states that his second son Shamim Sayedee was born on 01.01.1972. This is the loophole that the judges used to discredit a part of history. I say this because the absence of birth certificates is a common occurence in Bangladesh and only recently has the government started the practice of having one and made it mandatory. Hence a large percentage of people of Bangladesh have the common birth date of 01.01.xxxx. If the court was so interested in Shamim Sayedee’s birth date, they should have gone to an analysis of more comprehensive depth. The verdict talks of prosecution having more witnesses than the defence, a poor reason in my opinion in discarding the alibi of the Allama. Compare this to the previous judgement in the verdict and the bias of the judges is only too evident when the verdict part reads, “In consideration of both oral and documentary evidence, we are inclined to hold that the defence could not prove the plea of alibi.” 
7. The verdict reads, “…….as 20 charges have been framed against the accused but the prosecution could not produce any live witnesses before the Tribunal to prove charge Nos. 1, 2. 3. 4 and 13 but the prosecution has proved those five charges by the statement of witnesses as recorded by the investigation officer under section 19(2) of the Act on the ground that the attendance of those witnesses could not be procured at
the time of trial.” Either the charges were a tad too much, or they were too weak to be proven. Either way, the weakness of the cases in his trial is evident.
7. The verdict piece reads, “Mr. Mizanul Islam, the learneed counsel for the defence submits that P.W. 28 Mr. Helaluddin without observing legal formalities, even without visiting place of occurrences has submitted perfunctory investigation report which has flawed the very foundation of the case. It may be recalled that we the Judges, Prosecutors, defence counsels and investigation officers, all are new in the trial process of the International crimes Tribunal, therefore, we hold that if any blunder is committed by the investigation officer in the process of investigation in that event the prosecution case will be more prejudiced than that of defence case.” That is most definitely NOT an answer.
8. A section of the verdict reads, “Horrendous incidents took place in Bangladesh about 40/41 years back in 1971 and as such memory of live witnesses may have been faded and as a result discrepency may have occurred in their versions made before this Tribunal. But, in practice, we found no significant inconsistencies in their testimonies in proving old incidents occurred during the War of Liberation.” How do they know such incidents were even true? 
9. A section of the verdict reads, “From the evidence on record we have found that accused Delowar Hossain Sayeedi had a very low profile having no significant social or political status in the society. He was simply a grocery shop keeper who used to sell oil, salt, onion, pepper etc. at Parerhat Bazar. His financial condition was not good.” If they have that record, then how could such a person form peace committees, arrange such atrocities and play such a prominent role in 1971 in forcibly converting as many as 150 Hindus, an allegation of which he has been convicted of ?
Close observations of way the allegations have been adjudged reveal the fact that statements of the defence witnesses have not been used to refute allegations of the prosecution, but twisted to provide more logic to give weight to the allegations in order to condemn, not adjudge. 
An off-topic observation is the absence of mention of Sukho Ranjan Bali, whose alleged abduction has been a cause of concern of international rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch. The silence of the authorities on this matter has been deafening, if not outright suspicious. 
   
Many many more observations are waiting for the keen eyed in the above discussed verdict, observations which only raise more questions than answers and scream out a simple question – 
Has justice been served?