New York: Bangladeshi authorities should halt ongoing mass trials, related to the 2009 mutiny by members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), which have been proven repeatedly to violate basic fair trial standards, New York-based Human Rights Watch has said.
On October 22, a military court convicted 723 of the 735 accused in the Sadar Battallion of the BDR, after a mass trial which did not meet fair trial standards.
“The atrocities that took place during the mutiny need to be investigated and prosecuted, but the authorities have allowed expediency to trump justice,” said Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Adams added: “Mass and unfair trials have been staged with little concern for the rights of the accused.”
On February 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. After the mutiny was quelled, the authorities responded with mass arrests of more than 6,000 BDR members from different units around the country. Members of each battalion have been tried together, often several hundred at a time.
The accused in the Sadar Battalion were charged with offenses under the BDR mutiny laws, which include disobeying orders, failure to report to duty, and aiding and abetting the mutineers.
The highest sentence for these offenses is seven years, and the lightest is four months. Two of the accused died before the trial was completed, 10 were acquitted, and the remaining 723 were convicted.
“Each accused has the right to a fair trial, meaning there must be specific evidence against him, a lawyer with sufficient time and access to represent him, and an impartial court. None of these basic principles have been met.” said Adams.
He added: “It is likely that many of those convicted had nothing to do with the mutiny, causing them and their families massive and unnecessary hardship.”