Halt Ongoing Mass Trials in Bangladesh

Target: Bangladeshi President Zillur Rahman      

Goal: Provide accused Bangladeshi soldiers with fair trials and revoke mass trial rulings

Ongoing mass trials have been the Bangladeshi judicial response to the 2009 mutiny by members of the Bangladesh Border Guards (BDR), previously the Bangladesh Rifles. While the mutiny does warrant serious investigation, the mass trials have violated basic fair trial standards and have prioritized expediency over justice. If the accused are to be ensured their rights and the matter of the 2009 mutiny resolved fairly, Bangladeshi officials must end the mass trials and allow for fair trials for each individual. Call on Bangladeshi President Zillur Rahman to ensure that justice is served in this important case.

The mutiny in question is certainly a serious one. In late February of 2009, 74 commanding officers of the BDR were killed at the hands of their subordinates, and many more were injured. When the mutiny was successfully put down, authorities arrested more than 6,000 BDR members from various units across the country. These mass arrests have led to mass trials, with military courts often trying members of the various battalions as one, convicting, in many cases, hundreds at a time. The most recent trial for the Sadar Battallion found 723 of 735 accused to be guilty.

Mass trials simply fail to protect the rights of the accused and the transparency of the judicial system. Each accused individual should be presented with specific evidence against him or her and guaranteed access to a lawyer who has sufficient time to meet with and represent the individual’s case. In the case of mass trials—and it certainly appears this way in Bangladesh—both the innocent and the guilty are grouped together without differentiation and face the same punishment from a far-from-impartial court. And to top it all off, Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog for rights violations, has released a document that describes instances of torture and other abuses BDR members have faced at the hands of security forces.

Bangladeshi authorities must end this sham of a trial and install independent investigations and prosecutors to ensure justice is served—on both sides of the aisle. Call on President Zillur Rahman to take action.


Dear President Zillur Rahman,

The 2009 Bangladesh Border Guards mutiny left 74 commanding officers dead and many more injured. This loss of life is tragic, but the judicial response by Bangladeshi officials is in some ways even more troubling. Arresting 6,000 BDR members—some with no clear evidence against them—and then funneling them through mass trials is a clear violation of human rights and fair trial standards.

A fair trial must guarantee several things: an impartial court, specific evidence against each accused individual, a lawyer for each accused with time enough to assess the case and prepare a defense. None of these components have been present, and instead, reports of torture and other abuses have been documented.

Failing to act in this case not only calls into question your commitment to human rights, but also the validity of the Bangladeshi court system. I ask you to halt the ongoing mass trials, revoke all verdicts made, and establish an independent investigation and prosecution.

I appreciate your consideration of this important issue.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: steakpinball via Flickr

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