The Bangladeshi cabinet on Monday approved proposed amendments to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act to introduce a provision for plaintiffs to appeal to the apex court against verdicts delivered by tribunals.
The amendment is likely to be placed in Parliament and passed this week, according to Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury.
The amendment means the state could soon be able to appeal against the life sentence handed down to Abdul Quader Mollah by the International Crimes Tribunal-2 on February 5. Quader Mollah is a leader of the Islamist party Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, and was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 1971, during his trial.
Monday's cabinet approval came in the wake of the mass movement at Dhaka's neighbourhood of Shahbagh demanding death sentence for all war criminals of the Liberation War. The 'lenient' sentencing of Quader Mollah was what sparked the movement.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain said if the amendment was passed, aggrieved people, as well as the state being a plaintiff of a case dealt with by the tribunals, would get the opportunity to file an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court against any inadequate sentencing by the tribunals.
He said there was no present provision for victims or the government to appeal against any sentence handed down by the tribunals, other than an acquittal.
The window to file the appeal is 30 days from the day of the verdict delivery by a tribunal.The amendment has also proposed disposing of the appeal within 45 days. This time limit could be extended up to 60 days on reasonable grounds.
Musharraf ensured the amendments would not affect the merit of the cases or the decisions of the tribunals. "All laws in every country in the world are amended when found to have limitations," Musharraf said.
When questioned if the proposed law would have a retrospective effect and whether the state would be able to appeal against the verdict delivered by a tribunal against Quader Mollah, the secretary said the law would not have retrospective effect but "it is going to be passed within 30 days from the date of the verdict delivery".
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