Special courts weaken fair trial: Amnesty
Thursday, 29 May 2008


Special courts weakened fair trial safeguards in Bangladesh, Amnesty International said in its annual report on human rights released Wednesday.

"Fair trial safeguards were weakened by the use of Special Courts which imposed tight restrictions on defendants' access to lawyers, and by the denial of bail to defendants charged under emergency regulations," the rights watchdog said.

The report also said security forces in Bangladesh committed human rights violations with impunity, including torture and other ill-treatment and alleged extrajudicial executions.

"The police force was inadequately trained and equipped and lacked effective accountability and oversight mechanism."

Human rights were severely restricted under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of widespread political violence, Amnesty said.

Hundreds of people were reportedly arrested on suspicion of criminal activity or breaches of emergency rule, it said.

The report said more than 440,000 people had been arrested during the year, many of them were detained 'arbitrarily.'

"Some were then charged with politically motivated criminal offences. A number of detainees held without trial under emergency regulations or the Special Powers Act were reportedly tortured and ill-treated," it said.

Amnesty also focused on the restrictions on the media.

"Continued existence of wide-ranging emergency restrictions on news media intensified self-censorship by journalists and editors," it said.

"Journalists were threatened with arrest if they criticised intelligence agencies or the army. Lawyers were allegedly threatened with arrest on corruption charges if they took up high-profile cases," it said.

"Torture continued to be widespread."

Law-enforcement agencies were implicated in the deaths of more than 100 people in custody, but no-one was held to account for the deaths, it said.

Amnesty said the pace of reforms taken up by the caretaker government was "disappointingly slow".

The international rights organisation said violence against women, including beatings, acid attacks and dowry deaths continued to be reported in Bangladesh.


Amnesty said six decades after world leaders unanimously signed the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the record is dismal and urgent action is needed to prevent global chaos.

From Asia to the United States and Africa, countries are reneging on their global commitments to uphold human rights and people are starting to lose patience, Amnesty's secretary general Irene Khan said in an interview marking the group's annual report.

On December 10, 1948 the UN general assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, forming a foundation for international human rights law and a first universal statement on the basic principles of human rights.

The report, in strong language for an organisation that often uses legal jargon, accused the US government of "breathtaking legal obfuscation" in condoning the use of torture to obtain information.

But it also criticised European governments for at best ignoring and at worse facilitating "extraordinary rendition" flights taking US terrorism suspects to countries where torture was used.

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