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Posted on Dec 14, 06:20AM | IANS
Frequent changes to the three-judge panel in the war crimes trial of Delwar Hossain Sayedee mean a fair trial is no longer possible and a new trial must be held, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
Human Rights Watch has long called for those responsible for atrocities in the 1971 independence struggle that led to the creation of Bangladesh to be held accountable consistent with international fair trial standards.
On Dec 11, Justice Nizamul Huq, chairman of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) hearing allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in the 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan, resigned.
He quit after audio tapes and email correspondence were published concerning his conduct in his capacity as the presiding judge in the Sayedee case and other ICT matters.
The Economist published further emails and communications Dec 13 which it said showed collusion between the judge, prosecutors and executive.
Huq was the only remaining member of the original three-judge panel in the Sayedee case.
The other members of the bench changed over the course of the trial, meaning that no judge on the panel has heard the entirety of the evidence in the case.
"It would be highly irresponsible and unprofessional for a verdict to be delivered when none of the judges heard all the evidence and were unable to assess the credibility of key witnesses, particularly in a trial involving 40-year old evidence and complex legal issues," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"Before the chair of the court resigned for improprieties only one judge had heard the totality of the evidence, and now even that one judge is gone," he said.
"A new trial is the only way for the court to preserve its integrity."