Bangladeshi jurists oppose military law to try border guard mutineers

September 3rd, 2009 - 1:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Dhaka, Sep 3 (IANS) Most of the eminent jurists who appeared before Bangladesh’s Supreme Court have opposed the use of military law to try border guard troopers who staged a mutiny earlier this year, killing 71 people.
The apex court Thursday concluded hearing a batch of ten amici curiae (friends of the court) on the presidential reference seeking a ruling on the law to apply while trying the mutineers, Star Online reported.

Eminent jurists, including Kamal Hossain and Amir-Ul-Islam who were behind the drafting of the country’s Constitution in the early 1970s, appeared before the full bench of the Appellate Division that heard views for six days.

Kamal Hossain said the accused Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel would have to be classified through investigation based on their offences committed during the Feb 25-26 mutiny. The troopers had rebelled over low wages and poor working conditions.

“We want punishment for the criminals. But we don’t want the innocent BDR personnel punished,” he told the court.

Also opposing applying the military law to the paramilitary force were advocates Mahmudul Islam and Ajmalul Hossain.

Barrister Rafique-Ul Huq and advocate Khandaker Mahbubuddin Ahmed had, however, told the Appellate Division that the accused BDR personnel can be brought to trial under the military law by issuing separate notifications.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government last month advised President M. Zillur Rahman to seek guidance from the apex court on the knotty issue after moves to try the mutineers under the Army Act were criticised at home and by global human rights bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

An amicus curiae barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud suggested that the apex court send back the presidential reference to the government, considering it “premature”.

He pointed out the first information report (FIR) of the mutiny was filed under the existing law. Investigation into the case is going on as per that law and the charge sheet is also expected to be submitted to the trial court under the same law.

“How is it possible to hold the trial of the BDR mutiny under the military law?” he said.

The number of people to be tried for staging the coup has not been specified so far.

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