10 December 2013 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today called for an eleventh-hour stay of execution for Abdul Quader Mollah, a Bangladeshi politician convicted of war crimes in a trial that did not meet international standards for imposition of the death penalty.
The Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) has written to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh in a last-minute appeal to halt the execution, which was scheduled to take place later today, but has reportedly been postponed until at least Wednesday.
Mr. Mollah was condemned to life imprisonment by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal, a special domestic court with the jurisdiction and competence to try and punish any person accused of committing atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, in Bangladesh, including during the country’s 1971 independence war.
After the Prosecution appealed the Tribunal’s decision to sentence him to life imprisonment, the country’s Supreme Court sentenced Mr. Mollah to death on 17 September – a ruling that cannot be appealed.
In a statement last month, the High Commissioner urged the Bangladeshi Government not to proceed with the death penalty in cases before the International Crimes Tribunal, particularly given concerns about the fairness of the trials.
“The United Nations opposes the imposition of the death penalty under any circumstance, even for the most serious international crimes,” stated a news release from her office.
Two UN Special Rapporteurs, on the independence of judges and lawyers and on summary executions, have also called for the execution to be stayed, amid concerns that Mr. Mollah did not receive a fair trial.
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