Earlier this month, Abdul Quader Mollah was sentenced by an international tribunal to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity that occurred during the War of Liberation for Bangladesh in the 1970s. Since many citizens see this penalty as lenient, tens of thousands of Bangladesh citizens have protested the sentence for weeks, resulting in at least thirteen deaths and thousands of serious injuries.
Bangladesh became independent as a result of a 9-month war against West Pakistan. Formerly known as East Pakistan, Bangladesh fought a stark internal struggle with various Islamic parties that sided with the West in the war. Mollah was a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, one of these Islamic parties. He was convicted under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973, which is quite similar in nature to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The tribunal determined in this case that the crimes committed were systematic in nature, committed in the context of war, and against a civilian population. Moreover, the crimes were committed under the policy of targeting self-determined Bangladeshi civilians. He established auxiliary forces, using military resources, in order to specifically target non-combatant civilians.
The crimes committed were certainly atrocious enough in this case to warrant such a determination under the elements of crime of the Rome Statute. Mollah was condemned for lending moral support and encouragement in orchestrating numerous mass murders. For example, in the village of Alubdi, there were 300-500 unarmed civilians who were executed. The perpetrators who slaughtered them were led by Mollah, who accompanied them to the village with a weapon in hand, ready to aid if necessary.
Many protesters are calling for capital punishment, and are risking their lives fighting for this injustice to be corrected. For example, Ahmed Rajib Haider, a protestor in the Shahbagh Square sit-ins, was killed by men who attacked him with machetes and knives outside of his residence. Not only are those persecuted protesting the verdict, but so are the people of Jamaat-e-Islami. Their leaders are imprisoned from acts committed during the war and are awaiting their fate under this new tribunal.
Since Mollah is the first Jamaat-e-Islami leader to be convicted under this tribunal, it is unlikely that the violence will dwindle in this region. Given the crimes committed, do you think that Mollah’s sentence is fair? Would it be improper for an international criminal tribunal to administer the death penalty under international law?