Let there be Light: Commentary on IBA Fatwas

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Fatwas, in general terms, are understood as formal legal opinions issued by a recognized (religious) legal authority. In late 2009, the UK Parliament Human Rights Group (PHRG) made a request to the War Crimes Committee of the International Bar Association (IBA) to conduct a ‘legislative review’ of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 (as amended in 2009) of Bangladesh. In essence, the UK PHRG requested the IBA to provide a legal opinion as to whether the 1973 Act of Bangladesh is consistent with current international criminal standards. Following the request, IBA has religiously performed the requested task and produced a document containing the preliminary observations, detailed opinions and the relevant recommendations on the 1973 Act.2 It is, however, not known as to what prompted the UK PHRG in the first place to select that one particular legislation of Bangladesh for such ‘legislative review’.

It is also not known as to why only IBA, being an association of professional lawyers, was selected and requested by the UK PHRG to perform the above task. International law is not only practised and propagated by the international professional lawyers but also by the international academic scholars. There are other lawyers’ bodies too; including the famous English Bar in the UK. UK PHRG could have balanced its position by requesting legal opinion from some of these renowned legal professionals and international academic scholars. Therefore, there remains enough scope to question the sincerity of the UK PHRG in dealing with the 1973 Act.

The first conclusion that IBA made in its legal opinion is that the 1973 legislation, together with the 2009 amending text, provides a system ‘which is broadly compatible with current international standards.’3 IBA, however, goes on stating that ‘there are some areas which now appear out of date, having fallen behind the more recent practice in international tribunals.’4 In its detailed opinion IBA thus has tried to point out certain such out of date provisions in the 1973 Act and recommended necessary amendments to the 1973 Act. The IBA recommendations are 17 in number. Read More

Author: Barrister Tureen Afroz
Prosecutor, International Crimes Tribunal, Bangladesh

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