To the gal­lows

Southasia - - BRIEFINGS -

Aspe­cial court in Bangladesh has awarded death sen­tence to more than 150 bor­der guards ac­cused of mur­der and ar­son dur­ing a mutiny at their head­quar­ters in 2009. A to­tal of 850 peo­ple were ac­cused of in­volve­ment in the ram­page that broke out in Dhaka and spread to other towns. Sev­enty-four peo­ple were killed in the en­su­ing vi­o­lence. The court also sen­tenced 160 mu­ti­neers to life terms, in­clud­ing a for­mer law­maker of the main op­po­si­tion Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party (BNP), and ac­quit­ted 171 sol­diers. The rest re­ceived jail terms of up to 10 years and fines.

The 2009 mutiny took place due to griev­ances over dif­fer­ent fa­cil­i­ties for the army and bor­der guards. It shook the sta­bil­ity of Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina's newly elected gov­ern­ment, which ended the re­volt by ne­go­ti­at­ing a set­tle­ment. The then chief of the roughly 48,000-strong para­mil­i­tary force was among those killed in the 33-hour ram­page. Oth­ers in­cluded 57 top- and mid­dle-rank­ing army of­fi­cers as well as sev­eral civil­ians. Af­ter the mutiny, the para­mil­i­tary force was re­named the Bor­der Guard Bangladesh in­stead of the Bangladesh Ri­fles.

The trial be­gan in Au­gust 2011, with 801 force mem­bers and 23 civil­ians among those charged in 2010 af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion last­ing more than a year. About 4,000 per­sons have al­ready been found guilty of in­volve­ment in the mutiny, all in mass mil­i­tary tri­als. They have been jailed for up to seven years. Bangladesh's han­dling of the tri­als drew crit­i­cism from rights groups such as the New York-based Hu­man Rights Watch, which said the use of tor­ture and other abuse tech­niques to ex­tract state­ments from per­sons while in cus­tody vi­o­lated stan­dards for fair tri­als.

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