Accepting “Death Penalty” under the 1973 Act

Just an hour ago, a friend has forwarded me a recently published interview of Lord Eric Avebury (Vice-Chair, UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights) with a Bangladeshi newspaper. In his Exclusive Interview with Daily Kaler Kantho (25 October 2010; taken by its Scandinavian Correspondent Sabbir Rahman Khan) – Mr Avebury seemed to have accepted death penalty as a form of punishment for the perpetrators of 1971 Liberation War, arguing that the same has popular acceptance and support in Bangladesh. The relevant part of the interview reads as follows:

কালের কণ্ঠ : বাংলাদেশে ফৌজদারি আইনে ‘একটা খুন’-এর জন্য অপরাধীকে শাস্তি হিসেবে মৃত্যুদণ্ড দিতে পারে। তাহলে গণহত্যার মতো অসংখ্য হত্যার জন্য শাস্তি হিসেবে মৃত্যুদণ্ডকে কিভাবে বিলুপ্ত করা যায়? ব্যাপার দুটো কি পরস্পরের সঙ্গে সাংঘর্ষিক নয়?

লর্ড এভেবুরি : শাস্তি হিসেবে মৃত্যুদণ্ড বাংলাদেশে অতীতে বহুবার প্রয়োগ হয়েছে। শেখ মুজিবের হত্যাকারীদের বিরুদ্ধেও এই শাস্তি প্রয়োগ হয়েছিল। সে সময় উল্লেখযোগ্য তেমন কোনো আপত্তি বা সমালোচনার কথা শোনা যায়নি। এ ছাড়া মৃত্যুদণ্ডের পক্ষে জনসমর্থনও তার অন্যতম কারণ ছিল। নীতিগতভাবে মৃত্যুদণ্ড কোনো অপরাধেরই শাস্তি হতে পারে না। সেটা হয়তো আন্তর্জাতিক অঙ্গনের অনুসরণীয় প্রবণতা মাত্র। কিন্তু বাংলাদেশের ক্ষেত্রে তা প্রযোজ্য নাও হতে পারে। মৃত্যুদণ্ড থাকবে কি থাকবে না, বাংলাদেশের জনগণই তার সিদ্ধান্ত নেবে। আমার মনে হয়, বাংলাদেশের জনগণ মৃত্যুদণ্ডের পক্ষে।

This is what a translation of the above may look like:

Kaler Kantho: In Bangladesh’s Penal law, “capital punishment” (ie, Death Penalty) can be awarded for a single murder. Then how can such punishment be ruled out for mass muders such as genocide? Wouldn’t that be contradictory?

Lord Avebury: As a form of punishment, “death penalty” has been carried out on numerous occasions in Bangladesh in the past. The same was applied to the convicted killers of Sheikh Mujib and we haven’t heard much criticism or protest against the punishment, perhaps because of the popular support that was behind “death penalty” generally. ‘No criminal should face capital punishment’ – a principle that can only be considered a guiding principle for the international community. It may not be applicable to the circumstances of Bangladesh. It is for the people of Bangladesh to decide whether or not the provision for death penalty should remain, and I think the people of Bangladesh favour it.

I am not sure if Mr Avebury really meant what was published in the interview indicating a clear position-shift on his part, but we would definitely like to hear a confirmation on this from his office. Hope the media will be able to clarify the matter.

I look forward to writing up a detailed blog-piece on “death penalty” in the context of Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) addressing the controversies that are currently making rounds in other international circles. Until then…

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article or in the comment section are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of International Crimes Strategy Forum (ICSF).


  1. saikat Reply

    I am really astound to see this part of the interview as referred to by the post author and that has left me completely flabbergasted. Had it been really true, then this stance of Mr Avebury seems to me to be a major policy shift. The reason, why I hold such a view, is that Mr Avebury’s position happens to be exactly the opposite what he said in the interview and this is quite interesting. I think, his position change must be very significant (for us and for him too) which certainly would require a clarification, preferably from his Lordships Office.

  2. ahmed ziauddin Reply

    I don’t think his position has at all changed. The EU, UK got entrenched view on death penalty, which, as a British politician he would not contradict. I see few possibilities; one, that his statements were misunderstood, as if his answers were not given in writing but on phone or face to face, he must have said a lot, before or after. The other one could be that he knew it is a Bangla daily and not likely to reach to wider world including in UK. The final possibility is, what I thought he said, that it is for the people of Bangladesh to decide, which indeed is the position of international law as there is no global consensus against death penalty, and ICC effectively has accepted this position.

    In addition to death penalty, what surprised me was his stress on ICC as a standard, which I don’t think he referred to so much in previous discussions. His mantra so far was IBA, but here, he seems he has added ICC with it.

  3. Anonymous Reply

    If one analyses the whole interview, would easily can see some kind of softness in his voice then before. Once a person previously has demand some changes of 73 act by refering the IBA advice, then it would not be very easy for him to leave that position at once. But this time, his argument was almost Zero as anyone can see thru the whole interview. He even did not strongly demand amendments of 73 act, but requested softly by saying “If possible”.

    Whatever, his comments about the other points as he said about the issue of death penalty, Recognition of Genocide (himself & Internationally), supporting the Tribunal of BD, the improvement of human rights situation today in BD by comparing with BNP-Jamayat govt., by saying that Hill tracks peace process sabotized by BNP etc… would obviously work as a big barrier between him and Jamayat-BNP lobbyists in UK hopefully.

    By this time, even the Jamayat-BNP lobbyists in UK hopelessly would be very much surprise to see this kind of statements by Lord Avebury. I believe, which they were never thought before or been ready to hear!!

    He probably mentioned ICC for escaping from the previous mistakes. He as the same time, though indirectly, almost supported the death penalty which ICC does not recognize in their convention and said that it is the Bangladeshi people who would decide! Interesting? As the same way, it means that, it is the Bangladeshi people who would decide whether they will follow the ICC or not. Very diplomatic statement by Lord Avebury!!! God bless him!!

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