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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 182nd session
(Cape Town, 18 April 2008)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Sheikh Hasina, a member of the Parliament of Bangladesh and Leader of the Opposition at the time of the submission of the communication, as outlined in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/182/12(b)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 181st session (October 2007),

Taking into account the communication from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh of 7 April 2008 and the communication from the Ministry of Home Affairs of Bangladesh handed over to the Committee during the 118th IPU Assembly (April 2008),

Recalling the following: Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League (AL) and other AL leaders and members were targeted in a grenade attack of 21 August 2004 during a rally in the centre of Dhaka; 20 persons were arrested, of whom 17 were released on bail as they were in no way connected with the attack; in March 2007, the Caretaker Government registered the case with the Home Affairs Ministry's monitoring cell for proper investigation and quick disposal; since then, according to media reports, the line of inquiry followed previously, which was based on the confession of a petty criminal, Joj Miah, that the attack was carried out by a criminal gang, reportedly turned out to be fabricated,

Considering the following latest information provided by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs: with the arrest of Islamist militant Mufti Abdul Hannan Munshi in October 2005, the investigation took a different turn; Mufti Abdul Hannan had testified that the Horkatul Jihad (Huji) was responsible for several grenade attacks, which enabled the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) investigator to arrest 10 more suspects; further confessional statements led to the arrest of seven more suspects and the recovery of grenades, rifles and a large quantity of explosives; on the basis of the confessional statement by Mufti Hannan and three others, two persons, namely Abul Kalam Azad alias Bulbul and Jahangir, who were already in custody, were shown arrested in this case; they disclosed the conspiracy of the grenade attack of 21 August and details of how it was carried out; so far, 28 suspected conspirators and perpetrators have been identified of whom the addresses (and ties) of seven persons remain unknown so far; of the 22 remaining accused, nine are in custody, two are believed to be dead and another two are detained in India; nine are fugitives and every effort was being made to track them down and to bring back the two suspects detained in India

Recalling further that four criminal cases, three based on charges of extortion and one on corruption, have been brought against Sheikh Hasina and that she was arrested on 17 July 2007 and is currently in detention, her bail applications having been denied; that Sheikh Hasina denies all the charges brought against her, affirming that they are politically motivated because of her opposition to and criticism of the Caretaker Government,

Considering that two of the extortion cases and the corruption case were brought under the Emergency Power Rules 2007 (EPR), which have been criticized as infringing fundamental fair trial guarantees such as the presumption of innocence, the prohibition of ex post facto criminal offences and penalties, the publicity of trial, equality of arms between the prosecution and the defence and as restricting the right of courts to grant bail; moreover, the sources fear that the cases may have been brought under those rules to prevent Sheikh Hasina from engaging in further political activity, because a conviction under the Rules would debar her from contesting elections since by virtue of Section 11, paragraph 5, any person sentenced at first instance under the Rules is debarred from contesting national or local government elections,

Considering that, on 29 July 2007, Sheikh Hasina challenged her trial under the EPR with regard to one of the extortion cases; that on 17 February 2008 the High Court issued its ruling on her application, concluding that "the case in question … cannot proceed under the EPR" and "any action taken and/or initiated and continuation of any proceeding or trial of any case", arising out of the case in question under the EPR, "in any court of law or authority, is declared to be without lawful authority and stands quashed"; that, in its ruling the High Court inter alia stated that any case arising out of an offence committed before the date of promulgation of the EPR (11 January 2007) cannot be tried under the Emergency Power Rules 2007 and that rules framed under a statute being sub-legislation cannot curb or infringe a right or benefit conferred by a statute; hence the penal provisions as well as the provisions curbing the right to bail, as contained in the EPR 2007 are void and not enforceable; that, however, on 17 March 2008 the Chief Justice stripped the High Court division bench which had issued the above ruling of its writ jurisdiction

Considering further that, according to the Asian Center for Human Rights, at the 9 December hearing in one of the extortion cases, Sheikh Hasina's co-accused Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim reportedly stated in Court that a confession had been extracted from him by torture and under duress during interrogation and that he had been subjected to electric shocks and death threats,

Bearing in mind that Bangladesh is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which in its articles 14 and 15 contains fair trial guarantees, among others freedom from retroactive criminal offences and penalties,

  1. Thanks the authorities for their cooperation and the information provided; welcomes the progress made in the investigation regarding the grenade attack of August 2004 and hopes thatthe investigating authorities will soon release the findings which enabled them to implicate the Huji members, so as to ensure the utmost transparency in this high-profile case; would appreciate being informed in this respect whether the line of investigation based on Joj Miah's confession has now been abandoned;

  2. Regrets the absence of official information on the criminal proceedings under way against Sheikh Hasina; reiterates its wish to receive such information, in particular as regards the justification for the application of the EPR in this case, bearing in mind that the objective of the Emergency Power Ordinance is to restrict activities deemed "subversive to the State" or "hampering the relations of Bangladesh with foreign countries" or "disrupting peace in any part of the country or creating enmity, hatred or confrontations among different sections of society";

  3. Would appreciate receiving a copy of the Supreme Court ruling stripping the High Court of its writ jurisdiction in cases brought under the EPR, thus denying Sheikh Hasina bail;

  4. Expresses deep concern at the alleged testimony of one of Sheikh Hasina's co-accused that he was tortured; recalls that, under international human rights law, a prompt and impartial investigation shall be instituted wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed, and wishes to ascertain whether the authorities have instituted any such investigation in this respect; 

  5. Requests the Secretary General to invite the competent authorities to provide the requested information and to send an observer to the trial hearings in this case; also requests him to seek the opinion of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers on the conformity of the EPR with the fair trial norms, which Bangladesh, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is bound to respect;

  6. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held on the occasion of the 119th Assembly of the IPU (Geneva, October 2008).
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