Some 29 appeals filed by the convicted war criminals against their death sentences are still pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
The division has so far disposed of only eight such appeals, including the one filed by ATM Azharul Islam, in the last six years.
Two appeals filed by former Jamaat-e-Islami ameer Ghulam Azam and former BNP minister Abdul Alim against their jail sentences have been declared “abated” by the apex court as they died while their appeals were pending with this court.
An amendment to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act- 1979 in February 2013, making a provision for disposing of appeals against the sentences in 60 days, raised the hope that the SC would quickly deliver the judgments.
But the hope died down when the legal experts, including the then law minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed, had made it clear that the provision for disposing of the appeals in 60 days was merely a directive; it was not mandatory.
The Appellate Division is taking time for holding hearing and disposing of the appeals related to war crimes as this court has to deal with a large number of other important cases, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Daily Star.
“The Supreme Court and the International Crimes Tribunals in Bangladesh are performing better and faster than those in Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Cambodia in disposing of the cases related to war crimes”
The war crimes tribunals in those countries were established with the support of the United Nation, whereas the International Crimes Tribunals in our county have been formed with our own capacity,” he said.
The attorney general said it cannot be said exactly how much time would be needed for the apex court to complete hearings and disposal of the pending war crimes appeals.
Replying to a question, Mahbubey Alam said the number of disposal of such appeals will not be increased even if new judges are appointed to the Appellate Division, as experienced judges are required to hear such appeals properly.
Advocate Shishir Manir, a defence lawyer, told this correspondent that the rate of disposal of war crimes appeals is poor due to shortage of judges in the Appellate Division and huge backlog of pending cases with this court.
Advocate Shishir Manir said two International Crimes Tribunals have so far delivered verdicts in 40 war crimes related cases, and among the convicts, 38 have filed appeals with the SC against the ICT verdicts.
The eight war criminals whose appeals have already been settled by the top court are Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, its Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed, and its leaders Delawar Hossain Sayedee, Muhammad Kamaruzaman, Abdul Quader Mollah, Mir Quasem Ali and ATM Azharul Islam and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.
Among them, Nizami, Mojaheed, Kamaruzzaman, Quader Mollah, Mir Quasem Ali and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury have been executed after the apex court has dismissed their review petitions against its verdicts confirming their death sentences.
Delwar Hossain Sayedee, whose imprisonment until his death was affirmed by the SC, is now in jail.
The list of convicted war criminals whose appeals are now in the pipeline includes former state minister of HM Ershad’s government Syed Mohammad Qaisar, expelled Awami League leader of Brahmanbaria Mobarak Hossain, Jamaat leader Maulana Abdus Sobhan, Azizur Rahman from Gaibandha and Saifuddin Ahmed former Noakhali.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 in July, 2013 sentenced Ghulam Azam a total of 90 years in jail on five different charges.
The International Crimes Tribunal-2 in October 2013 sentenced former BNP minister Abdul Alim to imprisonment till death for committing genocide and crimes against humanity during the country’s 1971 War of Independence.