The curious case of Abdul Kader Molla

by Ahmad Abdullah

Mr. Abdul Qader Mollah is probably the most talked about Bangladeshi
these days. The highest court in our country had ordered him to be
executed through a questionable legal[1] process and in violation of
international [2]and human rights [3]laws. Worrying yet is the huge
pressure on the government, both from within and outside, to carry out
the execution at the earliest date possible. Even the attorney general
of Bangladesh has called for immediate implementation [4]of this
judicial execution.
In this short note, we provide three damning arguments proving why the
sentence by the Supreme-court of Bangladesh is in and of itself
fundamentally flawed.
1. Retroactively sentenced: The death sentence against Mr. Mollah
was handed down based on retroactively amended legislation. The
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which
Bangladesh is a state party, prohibits the retroactive application of
criminal law1; and as such retroactively amended legislation is not
valid in Bangladesh itself and clearly violates international fair
trial standards.

One may question, what is wrong with it, as long as it serves a noble
purpose – namely bringing the perpetrators of 1971 to justice. Well,
first of all, the perpetrators of 1971 is a long story that is beyond
our scope here; but suffice it to say, the whole International Crimes
Tribunal (ICT) fiasco is far from bringing the perpetrators of 1971 to
justice. More importantly, the end cannot justify the means in a legal
context; and the practice of retroactive legislation can end up in
very murky waters. For example, suppose a staunchly anti-shahbag
government comes to power with two-third majority in the future, and
passes a retroactive legislation making all activities related to the
shahbag protest tantamount to treason! Then there would be no legal
barrier to executing all those involved in shahbag movement.

2. Innocence proven beyond doubt, yet found guilty: Although Mr.
Mollah’s defense team was only allowed 6 defense witnesses; they were
able to prove beyond reasonable doubt[5], that Mr. Mollah was not
involved whatsoever with the horrendous allegations against him. In
fact, he had trained to participate in the liberation war, and was
awaiting his turn in Faridpur to join the battle. He resumed his
studies at Dhaka University immediately after 1971, and had later
become a teacher at the Udayan school and the Rifles school in the
center of Dhaka. He was also a member of the Chatra Union (Matia
group) and an ex-comrade of Matia Chowdhury and Nurul Islam Nahid
during his student days[6]. It seems his only crime is to have taken a
principled stand in the politics of Bangladesh rather than being one
of the many opportunists all around us.

3. Sentence for execution on the basis of lies and deceit: Momena
Begum was about 12 or 13 when her immediate family members were
brutally massacred in Mirpur, Dhaka by unknown assailants on March 26,
1971. Up until 2007, Momena Begum, a class five graduate, had neither
filed any complaints to any court of law, nor brought up the issue of
her family member’s massacre to any media. Then, on 28 September 2007,
she gave a statement in relation to her family’s massacre to a
researcher at Jallad Khana, the annex of the Liberation War Museum
officer, in which she blamed her Bihari neighbours for her family’s
brutal murder[7]. Of all her family members, only she survived as she
had left for her father-in-law’s place two days prior to the fatal
incident. Fast forward five years, and this Momena Begum reappears in
the ICT testifying that she had heard Mr. Mollah was an associate of
one Akter Gunda who had killed people in Mirpur (Note: sill no
allegation of Mr. Mollah’s involvement in her family’s killing).
Surprisingly such a contradictory and inconclusive statement[8] was
sufficient to find Mr. Mollah guilty and ‘deserving’ the death
Worse still is the recent revelation of the fact that the Momena Begum
who testified at the ICT in 2012 is not the real Momena Begum,
daughter of Hazrat Ali. It was ‘someone else’ – possibly an associate
of the state prosecutors – pretending to be her[9]. It has been
further reported, though could not be independently confirmed, that
the actual Moment Begum has been kidnapped and is being held at an
unknown location by the state security forces.
The judiciary in Bangladesh does not have an exemplary record of being
just and fair, especially in recent times. However, executing Mr.
Mollah through such a flawed process would definitely be a new
(all-time) abyss, and a disgrace to any process of law anywhere in the
world. We must stand up and voice out against such a violation of the
fundamental rights of a fellow Bangladeshi for the sake of Truth,
Justice and our Bangladesh herself.

5 See

for detailed proceedings.
6 Confirmed by a BAL MP in one of his writings (I can’t find the
reference at the moment).

8 Justice Abdul Wahhab commented in the judgment of Mr. Mollah “PW3
(Momena Begum) in her statements made to the Investigation Officer
during investigation did not implicate the accused with the horrific
incident which took place on 26.03.1973 and specifically stated that
the Biharis and the Pakisan army committed the crime” –
, pg.473

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