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Lord Carlile calls for annulment of Mir Quasem Ali's death penalty
Thursday, 01st September, 2016
Lord Carlile regrets the decision of the Bangladeshi Supreme Court to dismiss the defence petition for ‘review’ in respect of the conviction and death sentence of Mir Quasem Ali, and that in doing so, it failed to address clear deficiencies in the trial and appellate process that resulted in Ali’s fair trial rights not being upheld.
In a decision that offends the very principles of justice and accountability, the Bangladesh Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in respect of Mir Quasem Ali and condemned him to death.  
On 8 March 2016, the Bangladesh Supreme Court delivered its verdict on the appeal of Mir Quasem Ali who had previously been convicted and sentenced to death by the ICT.  The Court upheld the conviction and sentence and thus condemned Ali to death.  
The case before the ICT was full of inconsistencies, bias, political interference, and denial of any established national or international fair trial standards.  
In exchanges between the Chief Justice and the Attorney General, the Chief Justice rightly and appropriately highlighted the lack of evidence against Ali. Also, he castigated the Attorney General for what he saw as a flawed trial process.  
The Attorney General had no answer to the clear allegations being made by the Chief Justice.  
It is therefore astonishing that, despite the clear opinions of the Chief Justice, the appeal was dismissed and the convictions and sentence upheld.  
We need only consider the comments of the Bangladesh Minister for Food, who, when publicly discussing the appeal and exchanges between the parties prior to the judgment, stated “…I think there should be a rehearing of Mir Quasem’s appeal without the chief justice”.
There has long been suspicion of political influence over ICT trials. It is clear, given the Minister’s comments, and the fact that the convictions and sentence were upheld despite the Chief Justice’s comments, that this suspicion has significantly more credibility.
No longer can the supporters of the ICT maintain that it is transparent, independent, and respects of the fair trial rights of those individuals who appear before it.
Human rights experts from the United Nations have recently issued a statement concluding that the judicial process against Mir Quasem Ali was “marred with irregularities and failed to meet international standards on fair trial and due process for the imposition of the death penalty”.
These Special Rapporteurs, noting the flawed nature of the trial, urged the Government of Bangladesh to stop the execution of Mir Quasem Ali and re-try him following international standards of justice.
These calls and criticisms have been replicated by a great number of international human rights organizations and representatives.
Notably, more than thirty Members of the European Parliament, representing seven different political groups, sent a letter to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister. This letter denounced, in very strong terms, the “pervasive and grave violations of due process” in the proceedings against Mir Quasem Ali and urged the Bangladeshi Government to stop the execution “until the fairness of the procedures against Mr Ali have been fully and independently investigated”.
Nevertheless, despite these widespread calls and strong statements from relevant and specialist members of the international community confirming the flawed nature of the trial against Mir Quasem Ali, the Supreme Court has decided to ignore these international appeals and have summarily dismissed the review application submitted by the defendant’s legal team.
Consequently, the execution of Mir Quasem Ali is imminent. He risks becoming the sixth defendant to be executed at the orders of the ICT
Adding to the political scandal, the affront to justice and the long list of the Government’s human rights violations, the son of Mir Quasem Ali was abducted on 9 August 2016 by members of the Bangladeshi security forces, which now deny any knowledge of the his whereabouts.
Attacking family members of the defendants is completely unacceptable and contrary to every human rights norm, but this case is particularly worrying, as Mr. Ali’s son, Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem, was in charge of his father's legal strategy, and the disappearance took place immediately before the hearing on the review petition.
More reports have confirmed the disappearance of the sons of other defendants. This cruel form of legal and political pressure, targeting the family members of political actors sentenced to death, exceeds any conceivable Rule of Law standard.  
I call upon the Bangladesh Government to accept the offers of international assistance so as to ensure that the ICT really does deliver the justice that is so sadly lacking at present. I further call upon the Bangladeshi authorities to halt the imminent execution of Mir Quaseam Ali and clarify the current whereabouts of his son.
The Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBEp