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ACHR PRESS RELEASE
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ACHR Index: PR/BD/01/07
22 March 2007

UN urged to intervene against “No Bail Ordinance” in Bangladesh

New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights today appealed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour and the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers to intervene against the suspension of the right to appeal for bail and seek redress from any higher court until a case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is resolved in trial court or by the tribunal. The gazette notification of the amendment to the Emergency Powers Ordinance of 2007 was issued on the night of 20 March 2007 with retrospective effect from 13 February 2007. Over 95,000 persons have so far been arrested by the care-taker government.

The amendment gives sweeping powers to the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate, arrest or seize property by itself without the permission of the government or the official appointed by it and allows trial in absentia.

“This is another example of how the Care-taker government of Bangladesh has assumed the role of the judge and jury in clear violations of the internationally accepted cardinal principles of administration of criminal justice.” – Stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The supremacy of the judiciary to determine “lawfulness of detention and order the release if the detention is not lawful” is recognised under Article 9(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The denial of the right to bail directly interferes with the independence of judiciary and administration of justice. Moreover, trial in absentia denies the right to defend oneself in person or through legal assistance of his/her own choosing.” – further added Mr Chakma.

According to Section 3(1)(a) of the Emergency Powers Ordinance, 2007, anyone accused of a crime considered a threat to the security of the state, the people and the economy or falls under the Money Laundering Prevention Act and other corruption-related crimes under the ACC's jurisdiction, attempting to commit the crime, and aiding and abetting the crime, can be punished with death, life-sentence, 14 years' imprisonment, fine, or both.

While the care-taker government has every right to fight corruption, it must do so within the ambit of the rule of law and not by acting as judge and jury.  The UN human rights officials have been urged to intervene with the government of Bangladesh to withdraw the amendment promulgated on the night of 20 March 2007.  

[Ends]


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