War crimes probe agency seeks arrest power

Bangladesh on 30 April 2014
Location : Bangladesh | Source : The Daily Star; image source: flickr user Victor

Against the backdrop of the tendency on the part of the accused to abscond during probe, the investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal has proposed empowering agency officials to arrest an accused without warrant.

A letter of the agency, signed by its co-ordinator Mohammad Abdul Hannan Khan, recently proposed that the law ministry amend the corresponding section of International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 in this connection.
The agency has so far completed probe into 19 cases. The proceedings of four cases were conducted in the absence of the accused.

Sanaul Huq, a senior investigator of the agency, said, "We took the issue seriously as we have recently seen that accused went into hiding soon after the investigation began."

On April 1, the Tribunal-1 issued an arrest warrant against war crimes suspect, Syed Mohammad Hasan of Kishoreganj district, following a prayer from the agency.
Investigations are currently going on against Hasan over his alleged involvement in several war crimes committed in Tarail upazila in 1971. The agency feared that Hasan went into hiding too.

In the Tribunal Act, there is no provision for the investigation officer to arrest an accused during the ongoing probe.

As per the rules of procedure framed by the tribunals, the prosecution on receipt of the requisition from the investigation officer places the motion for an arrest before the tribunal and the tribunal, in its open session, hears the motion and issues the arrest warrant.

When the procedure to issue an arrest warrant takes place at the tribunal, the accused are alerted and, obviously, they go into hiding, said Huq.

"We are afraid that in future we won't be able to place any accused before the tribunal and all trials will be held in absentia," he added.

The letter of the agency reads: "The investigation officer may arrest an accused person at any stage of investigation without warrant of arrest if the investigation agency is satisfied that a prima facie charge has been established against the accused person and the person arrested shall be produced before the tribunal within 24 hours (excluding travel time) after his arrest. The local law enforcing agencies shall assist the investigation officer in securing his arrest and escorting the arrested accused to the tribunal."

Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday told The Daily Star that he was yet to get the letter.

According to the agency, war crimes convict Abul Kalam Azad alias Bacchu Razakar escaped 'mysteriously' hours before his arrest warrant was issued.

The trial proceedings against another war crimes accused Jahid Hossain Khokon had already been completed in his absence.

Tribunal-1 could set a date any day for delivering the verdict in the war crimes case against Khokon, believed to be living in Sweden.

The trial proceedings of the intellectual murder case were held in the absence of the accused. Two war crimes convicts, Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan, were awarded capital punishment in the case.

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