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This is my second time reviewing a The Economist news on this blog. After the first post, I sent my queries to The Economist regional contacts as mentioned on the website. One of them turned out to be no longer working for The Economist but the other forwarded my issues to letters@economist.com. It looks I have to spend more voluntary hours to correct The Economist editors when it is about reporting on Bangladesh. Please allow me to explain after presenting some quick info about the article:

Source: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21573990-bangladeshs-war-crimes-tribunal-sullying-its-judicial-and-political-systems-another-kind?zid=306&ah=1b164dbd43b0cb27ba0d4c3b12a5e227

Title: Justice in Bangladesh Another kind of crime
Authors: Not able to retrieve as of March 23, 2013
Date of publication: March 23, 2013

The article starts with comparing the operation of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), Bangladesh with the Eichmann trial which took place in Jerusalem. According to this news, the Eichmann trial was a ‘model of meticulous process’ while the ICT is not. The reporter characterized the Eichmann trial as,

open, subject to evidence and challenge, and legal.

Even before doing a comparative study between the trial in Jerusalem and the ICT, one can critically study the claims of The Economist just based on the proceedings of the Eichmann trial. Lots of people actually did so. There are still unresolved questions of human rights and jurisdictional aspects of the famous trial which took place more than fifty years ago. The failure of The Economist to recognize those is no less than spectacular. To respect my readers’ patience I would only consider the issues mentioned by this piece of news while comparing the two courts.

In the third paragraph, the article goes on listing the points of criticism. Unfortunately it starts with an utter lie. Let me quote it here.

The government has interfered in the court’s deliberations.

This is a typical vague statement made by The Economist. I just checked with the previous reports of The Economist on the ICT hereherehere, here and here. None of those news articles has ever raised any specific allegation against any unit, office or department of the Government of Bangladesh that it is hindering or influencing the natural operation of the investigation, prosecution, defense or trial units of the International Crimes Tribunal. Moreover, as the two mostly circulated national dailies, both English and Bangla, are reporting the day by day progress of the tribunal, it is obvious that even the defense had never complained against any unit, office or department of the government. The only exception is the alleged abduction of Sukhoronjon Bali for which I have dedicated a whole article in this website and will be addressed later here. Let us know what happened in the Eichmann Trial. Did any influence ever take place throughout the process of the trial? Well, The Economist says it! Eichmann was kidnapped by the Mossad operatives from the streets of Buenos Aires, the capital of another sovereign nation, Argentina! Eichmann’s attorney, Dr. Servatius, raised the issue whether presenting him before the court through an Israeli covert operation on another territory beyond its jurisdiction was legal. The court skipped the issue mentioning that this was not a part of the case. According to the court this had to be mediated between the two governments . So, the question of whether Eichmann had the right to be presented lawfully before the court remained unanswered at least in the eyes of the defense and some of the scholars who later analyzed the case. A detailed treatment on this matter is available in ‘The Eichmann Trial: Some Legal Aspects’ by the eminent international law expert professor Hans W. Baade published in the Duke Law Journal in 1961 while the trial was taking place. My readers may argue that reviewing an ongoing case is little risky as the critic doesn’t have the chance to verify whether the trial process passes the test of time. Well, that’s what The Economist is doing! But I accept your argument! Let us take a more recent analysis. I would also like to quote Professor Ian Shapiro of the Yale University who discussed the Eichmann trial in his class in 2010. Let me quote a conversation took place between Professor Shapiro and his student around the 11-th minute of the class.

Student: In one of the last two chapters, I believe, they’re discussing the reasons for judgment against him on all the counts, and one of them she’s discussing the four main points that they attempt to prove through the prosecution. And in some of them they discuss the term in dubio contra reum, which is, I guess, when in doubt act against the defendant. And that was kind of just when we don’t have necessarily all the evidence because a lot of it is speculative, we will act in a way that will…

Professor Ian Shapiro: Okay, so there was not a lot of attention to the rules of evidence.

Student: Yeah.

Professor Ian Shapiro: Right? Okay, so that’s one thing. There were a lot of what we would think of as procedural irregularities in this trial. Yeah?

Student: I was uncomfortable with the speed of the execution. It happened extremely soon after his appeal and plea for mercy; within a couple of hours.

Professor Ian Shapiro: Right, it was the way executions are done in China today, not the way executions are done in the United States today, right? It was very rapid. And why were you uncomfortable with that?

Student: I think there’s no doubt that what he did was wrong, but you at least have to go through the procedures just to ensure that justice is actually served, so that even if it was correct that he deserved the death penalty. I think the actual protocol should have been followed and that he should have gotten his time to make the appeal.

Let us look into another incidence related to the Eichmann trial. It was reported by Der Spiegel that an agent from the German Intelligence Service, Rolf Vogel was sent to persuade the Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion  so that the prosecution of the Eichmann trial will never raise the question about the involvement of Hans Globke regarding Eichmann’s activities. In exchange Israel was awarded 240 million DM military aid.

When Moshe Pearlman, the Mossad operative who took part in capturing Eichmann, published his book,The Capture of Adolf Eichmann, four weeks before the trial opened, Hannah Arendt aptly comments in her book, Eichmann In Jerusalem, that,

The book caused some embarrassment in Israel, not only because Mr. Pearlman had been able to divulge information about important prosecution documents prematurely and had stated that the trial authorities had already made up their minds about the untrustworthiness of Eichmann’s testimony, but because a reliable account of how Eichmann was captured in Buenos Aires was of course the last thing they wanted to have published.

So, in contradiction to what The Economist thinks, experts and public media, from the time of the trial to more recent years, have been raising issues about government intervention into due trial process. I would invite the readers to take some time to go through the proceedings of the ICT reported by the most circulated national dailies for last couple of years. Do you find any allegation by the defense that the government has unlawfully captured any accused or his assets? Do you find any allegation by the defense that the government has instructed the prosecution not to charge someone who took part in war crime in 1971? I don’t!

Let’s go to the second allegation mentioned in the article. I would like to quote it exactly.

Public discussion of the proceedings has been restricted.

I don’t think we need arguments here. A hands on experiment should be more convincing. If you type in ‘international crimes tribunal site:thedailystar.net’ in the search box of Google.com, it will show you the search results on International Crimes Tribunal explicitly from the website of the mostly circulated English national daily of Bangladesh. To make your lives easier here is the ready made link to be clicked on! I hope you see what I see. Numerous reports by the daily on the ICT, right? So, it is not true that the public media are not discussing about the court. Let us take a closer look. This link, at the top of the search result, hosts the full verdict of one case. This link discusses how  the court is dealing with witness protection. This link reports the proceeding of a specific day. So, the most circulated English national daily is routinely reporting and discussing the proceedings of the tribunal. Dear The Economist, did you just lie?

Let me quote the third allegation from the report.

The number of defence witnesses was curtailed.

The Economist didn’t make it clear on what ground this number of defense witness was curtailed. As no specific case was mentioned let me pick the case of Sayedee. On August 14, the tribunal fixed the number of defense witness within 20 to match that of the prosecution witness. Why did The Economist fail to compare between the numbers of witnesses on both sides? Let us know what happened when Eichmann’s attorney wanted to call in the people who witnessed the abduction of Eichmann. Once again I am quoting Hannah Arendt.

Dr. Servatius, who tried strenuously and unsuccessfully both before the District Court and before the Court of Appeal to call Zvi Tohar, chief pilot of the El-Al plane that flew Eichmann out of the country, and Yad Shimoni, an official of the air line in Argentina, as witnesses, mentioned Ben-Gurion’s statement; the Attorney General countered by saying that the Prime Minister had “admitted no more than that Eichmann was found out by the Secret Service,” not that he also had been kidnaped by government agents.

So, Eichmann’s attorney was never given a chance to prove the prime minister wrong before the court. This is no violation of justice as certified by The Economist. Did the ICT in Bangladesh stopped the defense from registering witness statements? No, it just limited the number of witness on both side to be brought for cross-examination for logistic issues. Did the Eichmann trial ever do anything limited by logistics issue? Well the Shapiro lecture mentioned earlier suggests that the rationality of the abduction can only be justified by logistic argument and not by legal arguments. Why didn’t The Economist do its homework?

Let us go to the next allegation.

One was even kidnapped on the steps of the court.

A blog post was fully dedicated in this website to counter this argument. Let me summarize the points here. This abduction was alleged to take place in broad daylight OUTSIDE the court. Only witnesses are the defense lawyer and two journalists, both employed by the Jamaat owned newspaper with ultra poor readership due to its credibility issue, who appeared there all on a sudden right when it was taking place. No other journalist or common people, not involved with the defense, was present!  The registrar of the court was present and confirmed that nothing such happened. The defense never filed a case for this abduction. This was not even reported by the two most circulated Bangla and English national dailies. So, The Economist was more prompt than the local media itself to buy this abduction drama without verifying it through third party accounts! How pathetic! Let’s now compare this unproven kidnap story with the proven (and applauded by the Israeli parliament) kidnap incidence of Eichmann himself! Was the reporter out of his/her mind while comparing these two cases?

The next issue is as follows.

In one case, the presiding judge resigned and the death sentence was handed down by three men who had not heard all the witnesses.

I have stopped being surprised by vague arguments made by The Economist. What does this allegation mean? Didn’t the new judges have access to the witness statements made to the prosecution? Didn’t the new judges have access to the transcripts of cross-examination of witnesses? I don’t see what purposes are served by such poorly framed arguments other than just tarnishing its own credibility and integrity! Moreover, I don’t see how The Economist compared this situation where the situation of resignation of a judge never appeared.

Then it was mentioned that,

In another, the defendant was represented by a lawyer who did not have nearly enough time to prepare a case.

So, what is the point here? Was the lawyer inefficient or the tribunal was just sabotaging the defense? From my review of the day to day proceeding it is clear that the court insisted on the efficiency and time management of both the prosecution and defense from time to time. There are several cases where the court refused both the prosecution and the defense extra time because they  failed to proceed in due order. Let me quote from the proceedings of August 23, 2011 (as transcripted here) where one of the prosecutors was presenting before the court.

Haider Ali then got and spoke. He said that ‘Pirojpur district in Barisal Division is one of the places where some of the atrocious incidents took place that happened between 25 March 1971 and 16 December 1971. They are all stated in the formal charge. An Investigation agency was formed according to ICT act section 8, and the investigation officials thus appointed carried out the investigation and prepared the investigation report. The official investigation started on 21.07.2010.’

The tribunal chairman interrupted him and said, ‘You should better go straight to your argument rather than citing history. No need for all the explanations.’

The prosecution said that he thought there should be at least a little bit of explanation.

Here is another example taken from the proceedings of March 5, 2012 where the court responded to the defense when they applied for something which was related to jail condition and beyond jurisdiction of the court.

Justice Nizamul Haq: Mr. Fakhrul Islam [Defence Counsel]; you have provided a lot of papers here except the Clemency Order. You’re repeating the same issues which have already been disposed by us. Don’t do it again. It seems to us, it is nothing but wastage of time.

Let us compare these two cases with two excerpts from the proceedings of the Eichmann trial as reported here.

On one occasion, as The New York Times reported, Justice Landau became impatient with the chief prosecutor, Gideon Hausner, after Mr. Hausner called witnesses who testified about horrors in Polish and Lithuanian ghettos. According to the parameters set by the indictment, these narratives were not strictly germane to the case.

“I know it is difficult to cut short such testimony,” Justice Landau told Mr. Hausner in open court. “But it is your duty, Sir, to brief the witness, to explain to him that all external elements must be removed that do not pertain to this trial.”

On another occasion, as Time magazine reported: “Eichmann was so wrapped up in his notes and papers that Judge Landau coldly had to remind him to stand when addressed by the court. Eichmann’s face flushed with momentary anger as he looked up; then, realizing where he was, he jumped up, apologizing.”

So, The Economist has found major dissimilarity between how the Court managed time in Jerusalem fifty years back and how the ICT is now doing it in Bangladesh. I wish they could present one specific  example like I did here.

These arguments convinced none but only The Economist reporter that if measured against the Eichmann Trial scale the ICT procedures fell short of quality. In later part of the article this conviction made The Economist arrive at more conclusions categorically partial and misleading. One of them is quoted right here.

Now the government wants to rewrite the law to allow death sentences to be applied retrospectively.

WOW! Lie of the day (at least for me!). Let me take some time to inform you what amendments are being discussed here. The International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973 allowed only the defendants to appeal against a verdict. The prosecution was not allowed to appeal if they were unhappy with a punishment. Moreover the law didn’t allow the prosecution to frame charge against an organization if it officially had taken part in war crime. The amendments, we are discussing here, allow the prosecution to appeal if they are not happy with a verdict. It looks providing only the defendants and not the prosecution with the right to appeal is fair and just in the eyes of The Economist. It is perfectly fine with The Economist if the relatives, who lost their dear ones in 1971, are unhappy with the trial and don’t have the right to appeal! Let’s look at the later part of the argument. The Economist got a problem for the retrospective amendment. Let us look at the very law under which the Eichmann trial took place. This is called the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, 5710-1950. Is there any retroactive amendment? Yes! By Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law (Amendment) 5723-1963, it repeals section 12 (b) of the original law. Let me quote the removed section here.

(b) No person shall be prosecuted for an offence under this Law, except offence under section 1 or 2(f), if twenty years have passed since the time of the offence.

So, the very law which tried Eichmann allowed retroactive amendment which may lead to death sentence to people who were not to be punished by the original law. One more time The Economist has either lied or failed to do its homework. My sympathy is with the readers of The Economist!

These six hundred words by The Economist is, to say the least, horrendous shame on journalistic honesty, academic integrity as well as disgrace for professionalism.

I would humbly quote Professor Shapiro’s comment on Eichmann trial once more.

Professor Ian Shapiro: There was more than one agenda here. One agenda was justice, bringing him to justice, but clearly there was an agenda of revenge, and there was an agenda of catharsis for many of the people who testified, who came there. It was very important for them personally to get up and speak about what had happened to them for which he was held responsible. So there were multiple agendas going on here, only one of which was what we normally think of as what’s going on in a criminal prosecution.

The comment of Hannah Arendt on the Eichmann trial is also very relevant for ending this discussion.

The irregularities and abnormalities of the trial in Jerusalem were so many, so varied, and of such legal complexity that they overshadowed during the trial, as they have in the surprisingly small amount of post-trial literature, the central moral, political, and even legal problems that the trial inevitably posed. Israel herself, through the pre-trial statements of Prime Minister Ben-Gurion and
through the way the accusation was framed by the prosecutor, confused the issues further by listing a great number of purposes the trial was supposed to achieve, all of which were ulterior purposes with respect to the law and to courtroom procedure. The purpose of a trial is to render justice, and nothing else; even the noblest of ulterior purposes – “the making of a record of the
Hitler regime which would withstand the test of history,” as Robert G. Storey, executive trial counsel at Nuremberg, formulated the supposed higher aims of the Nuremberg Trials – can only detract from the law’s main business: to weigh the charges brought against the accused, to render judgment, and to mete out due punishment.

I promised at the very beginning  that my discussion will be focused exclusively on The Economist’s references made to the Eichmann trial while comparing the operation of the ICT in Bangladesh. While going through the arguments one by one I failed to find any relevance or merit that could possibly justify those arguments.

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to justify the statements as much as possible with facts and rationale might be the best practice just like we always try to document the code of a computer program as much as possible. I still thank The Economist for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

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This is the account of David Bergman about the alleged abduction of Sukhoronjon Bali. Bali was initially a witness for prosecution who went missing for a while. Later on the defense team brought him to the court as their witness. According to them Bali was abducted by the police when he was about to enter. Bergman is based in Bangladesh and has been devotedly reporting the detailed proceedings of the ICT for quite a long time. I must say overall he is doing a great job. But while going through the writings I have found some of the statements questionable. The article of our interest is one of them.

Some quick info about the report:

Source: http://bangladeshwarcrimes.blogspot.com/2012/11/abduction-of-defense-witness-outside.html

Title: Abduction of defense witness outside tribunal
Author: David Bergman
Date of publication: November 10, 2012

At the beginning Bergman made it very clear that his sources were the defense lawyers and two journalists who work for the Jamaat’s mouthpiece in print media, The Daily Sangram. Let me ask my readers at this point whether I should rely on the account of these people who are in no way can be considered as the poster boys of integrity. This argument will be made clearer as we proceed.

I think the most important statement of this article is the fourth paragraph. Just to point out that this statement is not the most important part of the Bali abduction case. The only important thing now to me and his family is Bali’s safe return. I don’t care whether Bali is going to vouch for the prosecution or the defense. A person, no matter who he is, cannot remain missing forever. It is his family who is suffering the most. If there is a credible allegation that he was abducted by the detective branch, the defense lawyer should take necessary measure to file report on the missing person so that the police actively search for him. Returning to my point, for this article let me quote the most important part here.

Although there remains at present no entirely independent witness to this abduction, this allegation is credible in light of the background circumstances to this incident, the detailed corroborating accounts provided, and the photographs taken of the police vehicle in which the Bali is said to have been taken.

Here, we see that based on the statements presented and facts observed David Bergman is trying to arrive at the decision that the allegation of abduction was credible. We will discuss whether Bergman has missed anything and if the misses are affordable.

The article discusses how Bali became involved with the case and mention that the prosecution applied before the tribunal to accept Bali’s statement as evidence to the investigation officer when he went missing. I would like to draw your attention to the fifth paragraph of the ‘Prosecution witness’ section. For your ease, please allow me to quote it here.

In Bangladesh, generally statements made to an investigation officer are not entitled to be accepted as evidence – only testimony of witnesses given in court. However, section 19(2) of the International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973 allows statements to be admitted as evidence if the witness:

So with this (subtle punch?) Bergman hints that what the tribunal was requested to do is very unusual and might almost be unique. I am curious to know whether he was trying to mean that even if a witness is missing, in general the courts in Bangladesh still expect him to be present during the hearing! I hope not. Because that’s is whole point of missing! A person cannot be present at a place or point of time if he is missing. The court is supposed to take this millennium old definition of ‘missing’ into consideration and proceed forward.  Let us come out of our nice comfort zone of ignorance and verify this claim. I invite you to review the THE EVIDENCE ACT, 1872 of Bangladesh. Through out the act, it was suggested in about nine places what the court should do in case a person is not found. In every case that was tried on this soil since 1872, this was the act used to deal with the situation when a witness went missing. Let me quote section 33 for my readers’ special attention.

33. Evidence given by a witness in a judicial proceeding, or before any person authorized by law to take it, is relevant for the purpose of proving, in a subsequent judicial proceeding, or in a later stage of the same judicial proceeding, the truth of the facts which it states, when the witness is dead or cannot be found, or is incapable of giving evidence, or is kept out of the way by the adverse party, or if his presence cannot be obtained without an amount of delay or expense which, under the circumstances of the case, the Court considers unreasonable:

Provided-

that the proceeding was between the same parties or their representatives in interest;

that the adverse party in the first proceeding had the right and opportunity to cross-examine;

that the questions in issue were substantially the same in the first as in the second proceeding.

Explanation.–A criminal trial or inquiry shall be deemed to be a proceeding between the prosecutor and the accused within the meaning of this section.

So, it is clear that the prosecution can lawfully request the court to consider the statement of a witness to the investigation team or the prosecution as evidence if he fails to appear at the court for subsequent oral testimonial. At this point I would like to encourage my readers to ask the question whether this evidence will be as strong as the statements produced and later cross-examined by the witness who were able to appear at the court. My naive answer is of course not. Let me quote from the conversation between the court and the prosecution which was not considered in the argument made by Bergman in our article of interest.

Justice Nassim: Is there any value of this type of witness if they are not cross-examined

 Haider Ali: My lord, it will be considered as weak evidence. And Sukho Ronjon Bali has disappeared for the last 4 months. A GD was filed in local Police Station.

It looks the prosecution and the court also agree with us that the evidence was going to be a weaker evidence. So, we all are on a pretty rational standing. The million dollar question is why on the earth Bergman mentioned that something unusual was about to happen? He is going to be asked this question as soon as this article is finished.

I have another bonus issue for my patient readers.  Let’s go back to the original statement of Bergman that,

In Bangladesh, generally statements made to an investigation officer are not entitled to be accepted as evidence…

It will be rational to ask why Bergman didn’t mention it to his readers that generally in Bangladesh an investigation officer is a police officer who belongs to the executive branch of the government. But by the ICT Act 1973, the investigation officer for Bali was from the judiciary which is Independent of the executive branch. I apologize to my readers for quoting again from the evidence act. This time it is from section 25.

25. No confession made to a police-officer shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence.

So, yes, the court doesn’t consider statements made to the police as evidences. But how can the argument be valid for the investigation officers of the ICT while they are not directed by the police department and also don’t have access to the infrastructure of interrogation of the police department?

Let us proceed to the section ‘From prosecution to defence Witness’. Let me quote from the third paragraph of the section.

On 21 October, the defense filed an application asking the tribunal to issue a summons requiring Bali to come to the tribunal as a defense witness.

Bali’s family had filed a general diary in the police station in the last week of February that he was missing. This was subsequently reported to the ICT. Why did Bergman fail to ask the question that while his family was living in uncertainty about missing Bali for about four months why the defense started grooming him as soon as he was found for witnessing without prior reporting to the police or the family or the ICT? I am perfectly fine if Bali decides not to cooperate with the prosecution and take the side of the defense. But a person is reported to the police missing! Isn’t it unusual that whenever you first knew about his whereabouts you start working on your own agenda instead of notifying the police or his family? Doesn’t this need more scrutiny? Do we see that in this article?

The last paragraph of the section is also interesting to me. It describes about how the date for Bali’s testimonial was fixed. In this article Bergman decides on the credibility of the allegation considering the statements of the defense lawyers. These are the same lawyers who took the pass for the day before the hearing date in the name of Atis Sen and later claimed to Bergman (mentioned in another post but ignored in the arguments made in this article) that they wanted to take Bali using Atis Sen’s pass. My dear readers, do you find this practice usual? Moreover, given this act of dishonesty by the lawyers, do you find Bergman’s interest to rely on their accounts usual?

Let us go to the section ‘The next day: the abduction’. Here Bergman gives the detailed accounts of what happened on that day as reported by his sources. He quoted the Jamaat lawyer who, by the way, was the collector of pass in fake names on the previous day. The fourth and fifth paragraphs amused me like a standard Chuck Norris lore. So, in broad day light, while the abduction drama was going on, the first two journalists who were incidentally appeared one after another at the spot were both from the Jamaat mouthpiece in the media, The Daily Sangram! I would like to present some supplementary information for those who are not aware of the circulation of the Daily Sangram. This government report shows that the circulation of the Daily Sangram is among the worst. Being an avid follower of the Bangladesh media this is not a surprise to me but could be to some of the readers of the Bergman blog. Here is a screenshot of the list. Please look for the Daily Sangram at about the bottom.

A little old circulation information of the Daily Sangram.

A little old circulation information of the Daily Sangram.

If you are not a big fan of government survey here is another report by a private market research company which shows that the Daily Sangram is never considered as a player in private sector PR campaign. Let me include a screenshot of the figures.

The Daily Sangram has no place in private sector marketing campaign strategy.

The Daily Sangram has no place in private sector marketing campaign strategy.

So, going back to the original point, these are the people, taking fake pass from the courts and working for a newspaper with an ultra poor readership, who gives ‘credible’ accounts of Bali abduction to Bergman.

The final circus of the article is the photographs. Bergman quoted Shahidul Islam’s account, another Sangram reporter(!), that he saw the incident and had some exchanges while in the picture he was still wearing helmets and the police vehicle had already been leaving. Bergman also found the allegation credible based on the second picture with a white figure inside the car that he took to be Bali. Isn’t the following picture of Bigfoot clearer?

A bigfoot

A bigfoot!

The ‘Credibility of the allegation’ section lacks seriously in mentioning Sangram’s amazing track record as a newspaper, the coincidence of appearing two Sangram reporters and no reporter from any other house at that moment, the fake pass the defense collected for Bali, not reporting to the police or court that missing Bali was found etc. I wish I could follow the thought process of arriving at a decision about the credibility given all these missing points included in that section.

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to justify the statements as much as possible with facts and rationale might be the best practice just like we always try to document the code of a computer program as much as possible. I thank David Bergman for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

This report is comparatively much better than some other news articles I have already reviewed in this blog. But to not surprise me, it had at least one terribly wrong information and several attempts of presenting partial pictures. Let us start with some quick info about the article:

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/27/world/asia/bangladesh-protests

Title: Seeking war crimes justice, Bangladesh protesters fight ‘anti-Islam’ label
Authors: Farid Ahmed from Dhaka and Elizabeth Yuan from Hong Kong
Contributors: Christina Zdanowicz and Henry Hanks from Atlanta and Sarah Brown from London
Date of publication: February 28, 2013

The article started with a nice introduction about what is going on in Shahbag. After a fairly written starting I was expecting at least same quality when I started reading the ‘Genesis’ section. But I was surprised reading this. Please allow me to quote here.

Sayedee, a two-time member of Bangladesh’s parliament, responded that the court “has done injustice” to him. His lawyer, Abdur Razzak, said the sentence would be appealed.

So, this CNN piece says Sayedee was a two-time member of the national assembly. It is true that Sayedee was elected twice. But what about this? On September 14, 2003, the court gave the verdict that the election of Sayedee as a member of the parliament was illegal. The verdict considered  Sayedee’s hate speech against religious minority and spending over the allowed limit set by the election commission as serious violations of the election law.  The court also ordered the government to remove him from the parliament and recognize Sudhangshu Shekhor Haldar as the parliament member instead. This verdict was reported in both the most circulated national Bangla and English dailies. As the then government was led by Jamaat’s chief ally, BNP, this order was never carried out. Dear reader, my point is when you use the phrase ‘two-time member of Bangladesh’s parliament’ you give a reader, whose first language is English and may have heard of Bangladesh for the first time, that you are going to talk about a people’s representative. But when you include the fact that this guy was ordered to be removed from the parliament due to his corruption during the election process the readers’ minds know that they are about to know more about someone’s criminal activities. The pen of an author has this amazing power of setting up the mood or I should say a small universe of thought processes by presenting facts when and if needed. Shouldn’t I say that failure of mentioning such facts deceives the readers who might have been interested to correlate Sayedee and Jamaat’s works retrospectively?

Then we see a series of paragraphs reflecting a very nice and broad picture about the Shahbag movement and its background including our great liberation war and the international crime tribunal.

Another surprise was waiting for me in the criticism section. Allow me to quote that part.

As the protests grew, the parliament proposed an amendment to the law empowering the International Crimes Tribunal. Under the proposed amendment, the government can appeal any tribunal verdict, and Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said it plans to do so in Mollah’s case.

Protesters hailed the proposal, but human rights groups weren’t pleased.

“A government supposedly guided by the rule of law cannot simply pass retroactive laws to overrule court decisions when it doesn’t like them,” said Brad Adams, the Asia director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The amendments “make a mockery of the trial process,” he added.

I would like to ask this question to my patient readers. Don’t you think that a law is unfair and biased if it gives only the defendant to appeal against a verdict and deprives the accuser to appeal if not happy? Is this a fair playing ground? What if the law would have permitted only the accuser to appeal against a verdict and deprived the defendant to appeal if not happy? Don’t you think that this CNN news report would have said in that case that the law is not fair and is technically flawed and biased. Don’t you think that such case would have made CNN to quote HRW, AI and other human rights watchdogs claiming the law to be modified and give the defendant the right to appeal retrospectively? Yes you are right! They would have done that and I think that’s perfectly fair. Why are then they painting a different color when the deprived party is the accuser in the case of ICT? Don’t the people who suffered from the atrocities of these monsters and represented by the prosecution have the right to receive justice? I would also like to humbly remind the reporters that the both the legal basis for the famous Nuremberg trial (London Charter on August 8, 1945) and the ICT Act 1973 itself were retrospective.

As I have said earlier without these scattered incorrect information and false representation of the picture, overall this article could have been an example to everyone about how a report on citizen movement should be written. I sincerely appreciate that unlike, Guardian, The Economist and Saudi Gezzette, the CNN reporters actually went to Shahbag, talked to people, quoted them and at least tried to understand what is the inner meanings of those demonstrations, protests and banners. It is an amazing report indeed.

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to put statements as correct as possible backed with facts and rationale is very important just like we always try to write the code of a computer program as bug free as possible. I still thank CNN for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

This is another pathetic example of journalism from a highly reputed newspaper. Sorry, my reader, for ruining your day with my ‘hate speech’! Please allow me to explain after presenting some quick info about the article:

Source: http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21573150-flawed-tribunal-opens-old-wounds-and-threatens-bangladeshs-future-nation-divided

Title: Unrest in Bangladesh, A nation divided
Authors: Not able to retrieve as of March 9, 2013
Date of publication: March 9, 2013

Let me start with the title ‘A flawed tribunal opens old wounds and threatens Bangladesh’s future’. Any public institution, no matter whether it is operating in a developing or developed nation, always has its limitations. In Bangladesh, with very limited resources, all the public institutions have always been working hard to serve people. Sometimes, because of the politicians, they are not able to meet citizen’s expectations but in most cases the gaps between the service and the expectations come merely from limited resources.

Think about The Economist is preparing a news on why President Obama has not fulfilled his promise of shutting down the Gitmo prison and starts the headline with ‘The Cheater President Obama…’! I invite my reader to predict whether this will ever happen. I think I can read your mind. It is negative. Why don’t we verify it? A quick search within The Economist website points us to this, this and this articles. Dear reader, please take your time to answer to my question – was The Economist judgmental while addressing President Obama in the headline or inside the news? No! Is the tenure of President Obama longer than the lifetime of the International Crimes Tribunal? Yes! Does the fact that The Economist published more news articles on President Obama than the International Crimes Tribunal mean they had more chances to be judgmental about President Obama? Yes! So, why The Economist is so quick for being judgmental about the ICT? I don’t have the answer. Surely, I am going to ask it to The Economist after I finish writing this article.

I would encourage you to raise the point that the case of President Obama and the case of the ICT may not be of same kind. Instead of defending myself I would like to take a second try. Let’s try my hypothesis with the most famous international crimes tribunal, the International Military Tribunal which hosted some of the Nuremberg trials long ago. I invite my readers to read the nine pages long critic of the Nuremberg trials by the famous expert on international laws, professor Quincy Wright, published in The American Journal of International Law in 1947. Since then researchers are still debating about different aspects of limitations of the courts set up in Nuremberg. Did The Economist ever term the Nuremberg trials flawed or even allegedly flawed? I have not done an exhaustive search but they didn’t at least in the articles which showed up on the first page of my search results inside The Economist website.

Why so hurry for being so decisive about the ICT of Bangladesh? I sincerely appreciate if someone is really asking question about the quality of the tribunal and its operations. But when someone is giving judgement I expect academic integrity and journalistic professionalism as a reader. If it doesn’t have enough evidence for being decisive, the report becomes just another example of careless poor quality journalism. Do the readers of The Economist deserve that?

Enough about the headline. Let us proceed. But alas! we have to stop at the very first paragraph! Take a look at the last two lines of that paragraph. If it looks familiar, you are right! The Economist made the same mistake the Saudi Gazette did on March 7, 2013. My explanation in another article says why the surprise The Economist is caught by about the ‘domestic nature’ of the ICT is totally irrational. I have a simple question to the unnamed reporter. Did you ever have some time to check the definition of international crime and the jurisdiction defined in the ICT Act 1973 enacted by the government of Bangladesh? Aren’t you supposed to do the homework?

The next several paragraphs are poor efforts of undermining the level of violence and terror caused by the Jamaat and Shibir activists and highlighting the number of killing by the law enforcement agencies. Why I am saying so? Let me quote from one of my previous articles which takes the statistics of post verdict violence from the most circulated national daily.

Jamaat activists killed three polices after attacking a police camp at the Sundarganj sub-district of Gaibandha district. An engineer who was a government employee was pushed off the roof and killed by Jamaat activists in Chapainawabganj. Jamaat activists set fire to the Bamondanga railway station in Rangpur. Some part of the Santahar-Lalmonirhar railroad was also destroyed by the same people.   Jamaat activists also attacked the Hindu localities of Rajgang bazaar in Begomganj, Noakhali. In Chiribondor sub-district of Dinajpur district three shops were vandalized by the local Jamaat activities. In Kodimchilan, Nator, Jamaat activists set fire to a police van which had polices inside. In Sonamosjid, Chapainawabganj they set fire to a government funded hotel which was under construction.

These are the immediate reports came out within twenty four hours of the first wave of violence. The reporters are now doing more investigations and digging up horrifying stories of crime and terror against humanity happened at that period and ignored by The Economist. My dear readers, does The Economist report of our interest cover the depth and breadth of the nationwide violence took place? Do you feel the plight of the Hindu community with their houses burnt down, temples destroyed, family members killed and raped in several districts? Do you feel the sense of terror which engulfed the families of the staff members of a power station when the whole station and its residential complex was totally burnt down? Do you feel the panic of the passengers when six coaches of an express train were derailed because the Jamaat activists destroyed the some part of the rail roads? Unfortunately I don’t. Excuse me if it is just because English is not my first language!

The Economist also successfully failed to link up these acts of violence with the instructions came out within one hour of the Sayeedi verdict on the FaceBook pages of Jamaat and its organizations. The statement was loud and clear – ‘Burn and kill them all’. The exact statement and its translation is already mentioned in a previous article in this website.

The article then discusses about Jamaat and Shibir being more insurgents and less political parties and some other political hand waiving about how BNP is handling the situation. But the most striking contrast between the Shahbag movement and the BNP backed Jamaat ‘protest’ is terribly missing in the article. It is the difference between violence and non-violence. Let me quote this line from a later paragraph.

The protesters’ initial narrow focus on accountability for war crimes soon gave way to calls for the banning of Jamaat, along with its influential banks, businesses and social institutions. With that shift, the public support the protesters enjoyed from across the political spectrum evaporated. The struggle is now framed by the BNP and its ally as a battle between anti-Islamist forces and the pious.

I would like to ask the unnamed reporter several questions again. I understand that you have successfully quoted Jamaat and its ally’s view about Shahbag but what have you seen there yourself? I hope you wouldn’t say, we never sent a reporter to Shahbag. I wish I could ask – have you ever quoted the exact demands or statements or a official spokesperson of the Shahbag movement? I would be disappointed if you say no we didn’t. I understand that reporting in a south Asian country could be expensive for a western newspaper. But what about these solidarity expressed from 179 international universities around the world? Did you ever try to go to your closest one and ask the participants shown in the picture why they are with Shahbag while being thousands miles away? Dear The Economist, is the easiest way always the best way?

Being an industry outsider I am not sure what should I expect from a journalist – reporting the reality as complete as possible or preaching what s/he believes.

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to justify the statements as much as possible with facts and rationale might be the best practice just like we always try to document the code of a computer program as much as possible. I still thank The Economist for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

This is one of the poorest example of journalism I have ever seen on ICT. Behold! This is by a professor of journalism of California State University, Los Angeles. Some quick info about the report:

Source: http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130307155827

Title: Bangladesh ICTs: Monstrous injustice
Authors: Mohammad Auwal
Date of publication: March 07, 2013

The first paragraph introduces to the fact that the ICT has been handing out verdicts and Sayeedi is the most eminent preacher of the holy Quran in the country. Although I am not sure how to verify the second fact but let’s go by that. The second paragraph mentions that no charge has been filed against Sayeedi in last forty years. What point is he trying to make here? Can’t we punish a crime later if it is not punished immediately? Did the author explain how a 20 years of military rule within a decade of liberation can be a favorable time for justice? Did the professor mention that although it is thriving democracy is only about 20 years old there?

The fourth paragraph says the law enforcement agencies have been killing the activists of Jamaat – e – Islami and it’s student wing. Extra judicial killing can never be supported no matter who is killed. Being an avid follower of Bangladeshi politics I am aware of such events. But when a professor of journalism makes such general comment it impacts the quality of the writing and clouds the view of the reader. Why I am saying so? I invite the readers to read this I have written previously. Does this SG op-ed successfully hide the fact that there were cases where the Jamaat activists attacked the police while they were sitting inside their camp of petrol vans? Dear reader, I am referring to the two most circulated Bangla and English national dailies one with tenfold circulation of that of Saudi Gazette.

Let’s take a look at the first sentence of the fifth paragraph. I will not be surprised if the government uses its media and press to support what it is doing. I am not a big fan of Bangladesh Awami League of the present government! But wait a sec! Are they the most popular form of reflecting public opinion in my country? No! How could I say so? From TRP rating and circulations! It’s arithmetic. Has the author ever followed the most circulated national daily or the most viewed private cable network? They are not owned by the government. Reflecting public opinions is their bread and butter. How could an academician ignore the non-negligible part of the media which matters?

Enough about quality of the writing. Let’s talk about sheer lies. I invite you to read the second sentence of the same paragraph. Seriously! The Shahbag movement is orchestrated by the government? What about these reports of solidarity from 179 universities throughout the world? Are all these choreographed by the government? If so, I would suggest to replicate such an influential and motivator government in every country of the world!

The sixth paragraph contains twisted information about the so called Skypegate. The author truly said that justice Nizamul Haque Nasim was exposed collaborating with ruling party officials. What he ignored here is that how justice Nasim handled that exposure. I checked with the leaked conversation but failed to find where he agreed with the government about what will be in the verdict. To my understanding the discussion was more of prioritizing the cases from a logistics perspective. There might be a question whether a judge can have this kind of exposure but was it raised by the author? No! He hinted that the capital punishment might be handed by the ruling party in disguise of the justice. Excuse me! Which part of the conversation says so?

The later part of the same paragraph again presents another sheer lie. As I understand from the conversation that the Belgium based lobbyist (the author of our interest failed to mention that the lobbyist also happens to be an international criminal lawyer and academician) was helping about the technical format of the verdict and not about THE VERDICT. Dear reader, I encourage you to ask the question whether a justice can have such kind of informal professional relationship. What I should not encourage is paraphrasing a real fact and hint  to what not happened.

The next paragraph says the ‘loyal’ protesters of already knew about the verdict ahead of time. The author used the term ‘must have known’. So, it is a strong conviction which should have come from a rational thought process. I invite you to take a look at this demonstration by the students of MIT, Harvard and Northwestern universities. It took place on February 9, 2013, almost twenty days before the verdict was handed. If Bangla is not your first language let me translate the biggest banner for you. It says – ‘These criminals will never change. We want them hanged’. I would like to ask the author and you, my readers, whether these people also contributed along with the government and the Belgium based ‘lobbyist’ in writing the verdict. What about the students from 178 other international universities? All of them talked about hanging the accused. Did they all take part in the conspiracy? Let me tell you why the conspiracy theory about first men on the moon doesn’t count. It is because making all of you believe that men went to the moon is much more expensive than just sending men to the moon. Same case here! When 500000 people gather in one afternoon just saying hang them but not lynching the war criminals from the prison which is not very far it is about justice. You can confuse a person who doesn’t speak Bangla by exactly quoting from the slogans or banners but confusions never sustain.

This article is a disgrace to both academic integrity and quality journalism. How could the author forget to mention that Barrister T H Khan who was quoted in the tenth paragraph is also the vice chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party who is a political ally of Jamaat – e – Islami. Does mentioning only his professional experience and not mentioning his political affiliation give you the whole picture?

The eleventh paragraph is the funniest misinterpretation of the International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973 I have ever read. Did the author take some time to go through the actual law? ‘International’ is used here for crimes not for the tribunal. International crimes are the crimes which any country can take into concern and prosecute. The crimes should be covered under international law. Let me quote from an article by Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Switzerland.

The current system of international criminal law works through international ad hoc tribunals, internationalised or mixed tribunals, the International Criminal Court as well as national courts (military tribunals and ordinary courts).

So, the ICT is a national court which is well recognized in the definition. The Saudi Gazette failed to identify that the author, who is a professor of journalism, didn’t do his homework.

The next paragraph quotes a senior lawyer who once was the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman government. Once again the author failed to recognize that the person is also an adviser to the chairperson of BNP which is a political ally of Jamaat – e – Islami. Two missing real affiliations and several false affiliations in the same article? The author must be having a bad day.

Then there comes a paragraph of theory stuffs out of which I was not able to make anything. Is it trying to answer the question whether there should be any tribunal at all? No clue!

In the fourteenth paragraph, the author claimed that one of the judges had the background of ani-Jamaat-e-Islami political activism. What does it really mean? In the last national election Jamaat-e-Islami got only about 4% of the popular votes from a Muslim majority country like Bangladesh. Can we claim from that fact that 96% of the Muslim majority voters were anti-Jamaat-e-Islami political activist? Cannot a citizen of Bangladesh have the right to reject what Jamaat-e-Islami is preaching or doing?

Let me quote the next paragraph exactly.

Even after the recent Skype scandal, the ICTs are strangely doing business as usual relying not on ethics but on the logic of power.

A single line paragraph with no reference or explanation. A newspaper with 50K circulation deserves better.

Dear author as I said this is one of the poorest pieces of journalism I have ever seen I can go on and on. Let me stop here and give you a break.

It is not always possible for a writer to estimate the impact of the op-ed s/he is writing. So, trying to remain as honest as possible might be the best practice just like we always try to write a computer program without fooling ourselves. I thank Professor Mohammad Auwal for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

This is the first article by David Bergman reporting the first hearing which took place at the ICT. Bergman is based in Bangladesh and has been devotedly reporting the detailed proceedings of the ICT for quite a long time. I must say overall he is doing a great job. But while going through the writings I have found some of the statements questionable. The article of our interest is one of them.

Some quick info about the report:

Source: http://bangladeshwarcrimes.blogspot.com/2010/08/first-hearing-26-july-2010-arrest.html

Title: 1st Hearing, 26 July 2010: Arrest warrants issued against 4 Jamaat leaders
Author: David Bergman
Date of publication: August 15, 2010

The article heavily quotes the most circulated national English daily, The Daily Star. The first quotation comes from the July 26 edition of the daily while the second quotation comes from the next day edition.

Until the last paragraph the article is just a series of events at ICT mostly taken from a secondary source. What about the last line? Let me quote Bergman.

There is a question as to whether the Tribunal had the power to issue an arrest warrant at this stage in the proceedings – an issue which will be discussed in a later blog.

Dear reader, I invite you to check with the Daily Star articles like I just did. Didn’t the last question come out of blue? Who raised the question? When? And where? Most importantly what is the jurisdictional basis of this question? Does the article completely satisfy us while it ends? Aren’t we confused here? Do we see a pointer to the later blog which discusses it? Is it possible that a newspaper which uses Bergman as a reference may totally misinterpret this and strongly suggest that the tribunal doesn’t have the jurisdiction to arrest someone and by giving such orders it is overstepping its boundaries?

I accept your argument that ideally such things should not happen. Let me remind you that we do not live in an ideal world. I just fixed a typo in the previous paragraph which ideally shouldn’t have happened!

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to justify the statements as much as possible with facts and rationale might be the best practice just like we always try to document the code of a computer program as much as possible. I thank David Bergman for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

This is a short report from a highly influential media which contains a seriously flawed statement. Some quick info about the report:

Source: http://m.npr.org/news/World/173241756

Title: Violent Street Clashes In Bangladesh Leave Dozens Dead
Authors: Julie McCarthy
Date of publication: March 01, 2013

I would like to invite you to read the second sentence.

Demonstrators for and against the convicted leader clashed with security forces, leaving dozens of people dead, including police.

If you have been following the ICT and the Shahbag protest for a while I bet you already had  goosebump. If you have heard of the ICT, Bangladesh or the Shahbag protest for the first time, please check with both the most circulated local Bangla and English dailies, specifically, the editions which came out on the same day as the NPR piece did. Were you able to find a single piece of news where the demonstrators against the convicted leader (i.e. the Shahbag protesters) clashed with the security forces? I understand that you weren’t.

Apart from this extremely incorrect information, the article reflects the reality in general. I sincerely appreciate the reporter and NPR for that.

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to remain as accurate as possible might be the best practice just like we always try to write a computer program free of bugs. I thank Julie McCarthy for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

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