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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 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.

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