Trial Coverage Begins

The War Crimes Studies Center has been in the process of establishing a research and observation project covering the International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka. Our goal is to provide factual and objective coverage of the ongoing trial proceedings. The tribunal currently does not have an official website or spokesperson, and current accurate information regarding the trials is difficult to access. We hope that this blog can fill this gap and provide useful information to the diplomatic community, academics, those working in the field of international criminal law, victims and other interested parties.

Over the past two months WCSC has worked to establish the logistical framework for our project. In order to introduce ourselves and explain our goals we have been meeting with court officials, the prosecution and defense teams, journalists and other civil society members as well as conducting legal research regarding both international and Bangladeshi legal practice. Additionally, we have hired a team of local Bangladeshi lawyers to conduct daily observation and translation of the proceedings.

Unfortunately we have faced a number of obstacles that have slowed our progress and delayed the launch of our daily reporting. The recruitment process for our local team was carried out cautiously and thoroughly as it is of the utmost importance that our team be able to neutrally assess the proceedings and accurately translate from Bangla into English. Additionally, our recruitment process has been prolonged by court requirements that our researchers go through an extensive background security check. This process took three weeks for one researcher and was still ongoing for another when the candidate decided that, due to concerns about prejudice to his future career, he could not continue to work with us. This meant that we had to again begin the recruitment process for a local Bangladeshi lawyer. We continue to work with the court and are now waiting for the approval of our second candidate. While we understand the the security concerns we regret the long duration of the background check and the intimidating impact that it potentially has on qualified candidates selected by our organization.

An additional factor in the delay of our publications has been our restricted access to official court documents. The tribunal has thus far declined to provide us with certified copies of court orders, including the charge framing orders (indictments). They have cited the ICT Act of 1973, stating that there is no specific provision in the act entitling 3rd parties to request and obtain certified copies of documents. We have been directed to obtain these documents instead from  the Prosecution, Defense or from journalists. Despite our urging that our neutrality and objectivity is dependent on our access to official documents the court thus far has not been willing to rethink its position. Therefore, we have had to use additional time to obtain necessary documents and to verify their accuracy.

Despite these obstacles we have been attending proceedings and preparing materials for publication. We have now published overview charts of the cases in Tribunal I and Tribunal II that contain current and accurate information about the status of the trials and which will be updated on a daily basis. In the coming weeks we will be publishing brief summaries on each of the cases, timelines for each trial, as well as links to key documents in each of the trials. Additionally, we will begin publishing daily summaries of the proceedings in Tribunal 1 and Tribunal II. We hope that these materials will be useful to you and we look forward to feedback and questions that can help us make this website more effective.

Thank you for your patience.