Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Muhammad Kamaruzzaman
The day’s proceedings began later than usual due to the late arrival of senior Prosecutor Saiful Islam. The court sat at 10:35 A.M but adjourned for half an hour after waiting for the Prosecutor to arrive. After his arrival the Tribunal reconvened and chastised the Prosecutor for his tardiness. They warned that he would face sanctions if similar incidents occured in the future. The prosecutor then moved on to address the evidentiary aspects of each of the charges against Kamaruzzaman.
Charge 1: Torture and murder of Badiuzzaman
Date of Occurrence: 29 June 1971 and 30 June 1971.
Place of Occurrence: Ahammad Nagar Army Camp
Witnesses in support of the Charge: Prosecution witnesses 4 and 6.
Both the prosecution witnesses in support of this charge provided testimony based on hearsay evidence. Prosecution witness 6 additionally gave testimony in relation to some circumstantial evidence. The testimony of Prosecution witness 4 involves multiple hearsay, meaning that the information was relayed through more than one person before being received by the witness. Prosecution witness 6 testified that Kamaruzzaman accompanied the group who abducted the victim. The Prosecution argued that they have evidence showing that the accused led the group. However, the judges stated that such evidence would not be of high significance because Charge 1 against Kamaruzzaman is not framed under Section 4(2) of the ICT Act of 1973, which provides for liability due to command responsibility.
CHARGE 2: Inhuman Treatment of Pro-Liberation Intellectual Syed Abdul Hannan
Date of Occurrence: Mid-May, 1971.
Place of Occurrence: Sherpur town.
Witnesses in support of the Charge: PW-2, PW-3 and PW-14.
Prosecution witness 3 testified that he heard that Kamaruzzaman and one Major Aiyub were rude in their behavior toward the victim and that they forcibly shaved his head. Prosecution witness 3’s testimony was hearsay, but was corroborated by Prosecution eye-witnesses 2 and 14. However, the testimony of these witnesses diverge regarding when they allege the incident occurred. Whereas the Prosecution alleges that the incident happened in mid-May, Prosecution witness 14 said that he witnessed it after being released from a camp in the month of Ramadan. The judge said that if it was in the month of Ramadan in the Arabic calendar, it must have taken place after November in 1971. The judge questioned how can there could be such a significant discrepancy between the testimonies of the witnesses. The judge also noted that that similar questions would arise with regard to Charge 5. The Prosecution was unable to respond.. The Prosecutor also failed to respond to judicial questioning as to whether there is any corroborative evidence to support the claim that the incident took place in May.
CHARGE 3: Large scale massacre in Shohagpur; killing of above 120 people and committing rape
Date of Occurrence: 25 July, 1971
Place of Occurrence: Shohagpur Village (now known as Shohagpur Bidhoba Polli).
Witnesses in support of the Charge: Prosecution Witnesses 1, 2, 10, 11, 12 and 13.
The witnesses saw the incident and testified as to how the village was burned and an innumerable number of peopled killed. Prosecution witnesses 1 and 2 testified confirming the incident. However, the judges intervened stating that the event has not been disputed by the Defense and the relevant question is whether the Prosecution can establish the involvement of the Accused. The judges also observed that the testimony showed inconsistencies in the number of alleged victims, which as per the Charge is estimated at 164, whereas Prosecution witness 10 stated that 245 people had been killed. The Prosecutor replied that it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of victims in the case of such a large scale massacre.
Further discrepancies were observed by the Tribunal in relation to the testimony of PW-11, who in her examination-in-chief said that she heard from many about the involvement of Kamaruzzaman and subsequently affirmed with certainty that it was Kamaruzzaman who killed her husband. Moreover, as the witness had not previously seen the accused, the judges questioned how she could positively identify Kamaruzzaman in the dock as the perpetrator. Prosecution witness 12, who is a rape victim, testified about the attack and the Prosecution claimed that the accused was aware of and involved in the assault. The judges enquired whether the aforementioned testimonies have any corroborative evidence to support the involvement of the accused.
Demeanor of the Court
Throughout the day’s proceedings there were numerous instances when the judges were visibly dissatisfied with the Prosecution’s responses to their questions and interventions. At one point, the judges warned the Prosecutor that he needed to better prepare, stating that if the Prosecution fails to do so and the case is not proved satisfactorily, the court will discharge the accused irrespective of any criticism they may face from talk shows or the media. The Judges reiterated that the duty of the Tribunal is to deliver fair justice to all.
The Prosecutor explained the lack of preparation by claiming that there had been a a system failure in the Prosecution’s computers and therefore they had not been able to prepare to the desired level. The judges commented that a day of system failure is an unacceptable explanation given the fact that the Prosecution was given ample time and notice of the upcoming proceedings. The judges were also critical of the Prosecutor’s remarks that leniency has to be shown in similar cases where the Prosecution had to rely on old evidence and that the Tribunal should follow such precedent because the evidence in this case is more than 40 years old.
It may be noted that unlike other days, today’s proceedings were not video recorded by the IT Department.