onsdag 7 juli 2010

Bangladesh - Part 2

The second day of my visit included one of the many highlights of the trip, and perhaps the one that I will bring with me for the longest. In the early morning hours we left the hotel in a caravan of cars to meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her beautiful residence. We had an interesting exchange with the Prime Minister that lasted about one hour and touched upon many different issues, I had the privilege of introducing the group to her as well as account for the work of the International Conference of the preceding day. When leaving her residence I remember noticing the small plots of land for farming inside the perimeter fence of the residence before our caravan of cars headed back to the hotel for a quick stop.

Cecilia and the others waiting for the Prime Minister, together with members of the media

Cecilia together with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Cecilia and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the reception following the meeting

Cecilia and Mr Shahriar Kabir back at the Sonargaon hotel

After the quick stop at the hotel we continued to a lunch meeting with justices and lawyers of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The meeting focused on the upcoming tribunal for war crimes committed during the liberation war in 1971 and the need for constitutional change to bring back secularism to the constitution of Bangladesh. On a much more sombre tone there was also a, in my view extremely disturbing, discussion about reintroducing socialism as a sort of state ideology into the constitution.

After lunch the day continued in a judicial theme with a seminar in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh also on the topic of a war crimes tribunal where I once again had the opportunity to have a nice conversation with the minister for Law, Justice and parliamentary affairs. In my main intervention of the seminar I expressed solidarity with the idea of a war crimes tribunal to help Bangladesh end impunity and move past the horrific events of the liberation war. This support was of course offered only under the condition that international standards for a free and impartial trial could be maintained. I put forward the argument that an abolishment of the death penalty in Bangladesh would make it much easier for Europe to support a tribunal and that I consider the death penalty to be, always and for every crime, an abhorrent and medieval form of brutal punishment, far removed from any modern concept of justice. Although the justice minister did not address the issue of capital punishment in his closing remarks he did open up for international monitoring and inspection of the war crimes tribunal to make sure for all that it kept up to the very highest international standards.

Arriving at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh

The chariman of the Decmocratic Lawyers of Bangladesh

The hall for the seminar at the Supreme Court

The Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs during his intervention in the seminar

The justice minister discussing together with Cecilia, on their right Canadian human rights attorney Wiliam Sloan

Cecilia and the Minister for Justice

The day visit to the Supreme Court was supposed to have ended after the seminar but during one of our conversations the justice minister asked me if I wanted to visit the newly constructed tribunal for war crimes (as it was just nearby) and I accepted. The impromptu visit was followed by all other participants (quite a few) as well as very interested representatives of the media.

On the way to the International Crimes Tribunal

The main courtroom of the tribunal

Sitting down in the judges chambers

Cecilia, the Justice Minister and the Special Prosecutor for International Crimes

Exiting the tribunal after the impromptu visit

Cecilia and the Justice minister thanking each other for an interesting afternoon

Once the visit was concluded the clock was approaching 7 pm and I had only minutes to spare when arriving on the set of one of Bangladesh's most watched TV-shows called The Road to Democracy on R-TV. The show went well and after yet an interview (this time for a newspaper) time approached for some dinner and sleep.

Arrivnig at R-TV

On the set of "Road to democracy"

After the show was over everyone got their very own stylish R-TV coffee mug

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