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Interrogations in 'Safe Home'

4 July 2011 by Administrator

By now, we all must have heard about the War Crime Tribunal in Bangladesh that is formed to put war criminals of 1971 into trial. The whole nation had been waiting for the trial to begin for almost 40 years and to everyone’s comfort, current Awami League led Government initiated the process. The comfort soon turned out be a disgust as the whole nation experienced various national and international expatriate and war crime specialist started to question the process of the trial. The latest addition to the debate was the ‘Safe Home’ issue, which, according to the lawyer of the accused is intended to torture the accused.
What is ‘Safe Home’?


Safe House can be declared by the authority to follow a court or tribunal’s order maintaining the directions provided by it. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on Safe House, states, In law enforcement jargon and intelligence jargon, a safe house is a secure location, suitable for hiding witnesses, agents or other persons perceived as being in danger. It may also refer to, a home of a trusted person, family or organization where victims of war and/or persecution may take refuge, receive protection and/or live in secret. Typically, the locations of safe houses are kept secret from all but a limited number of people, for the safety of those hidden within them.[1]

BLACK’s Law Dictionary says, “A residence where people live under protection, usu. in anonymity. Safe houses are operated for a range of purposes, both legal and illegal. Shelters for abused spouses and runway children are safe houses. Law-enforcement agencies keep safe houses for undercover operations and to protect witnesses who have been threatened. Law-breakers use them to shield criminal activity such as drug manufacturing.”

Background of Interrogation in Safe Home

On April 05, 2011 Prosecutors had submitted arguments seeking tribunal’s permission to allow the investigation officers to interrogate two Jamaat leaders (Motiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Muhammad Muzahid) for three days each, keeping them at a designated house in Dhanmondi area for “proper and effective investigation.”[2] However, the Tribunal allowed quizzing for seven hours instead of three days inside the Dhaka Central Jail. In its orders, the tribunal had asked the prison authorities to arrange a room for interrogating the Jamaat leaders. The jail authority by a letter stated that it would not be possible on its part to arrange accommodation for interrogation complying with the tribunal’s order. Investigators also visited the central jail and found that it lacks necessary facilities to interrogate the two accused. Meanwhile, The Tribunal warned the Dhaka Central Jail authorities for not paying proper attention to its order for making arrangements for interrogation and asked them to be more cautious in future.[3]

The fact finally stands in a point that the demand by prosecutors to quiz in a designated house is finally prevailed after few days. The house is situated in Dhanmondi residential area (Holding No. 20/A, Road No. 16, Dhanmondi). Moreover, the counsel for the two detained leaders opposed to quiz in residential area for insecurity.[4]

Nizami at Safe Home

On 5th May, 2011 Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer (President) Motiur Rahman Nizami was brought to the “Safe Home” from the Dhaka Central Jail at 8:40am. The investigation authority started quizzing him at 10:00am and continued it till 5:10pm with over half an hour lunch break.

The investigation team led by Abdur Razzak quizzed Nizami about his role and political affiliation and entire activities before, during and after the Liberation War. After ending investigation, the authority briefed that, as he was asked different questions by the investigators, Nizami said he is now 70 and can hardly remember the incidents that took place 40 years ago.

M Sanaul Huq of the four-member investigation team after the interrogation said, “Motiur Rahman Nizami also admitted that mass rape and killing of the country’s intellectuals took place during the Liberation War. But he denied his involvement very tactfully.”

“We have specific evidence of his involvement in different matters related to crimes against humanity. But he avoided those issues and in some cases did not reproduce the true fact. So we need to quiz him further,” he added.

In a reply to a question regarding the international standards of the trial is being ensured, Mr. Huq said, did the Guantanamo Bay prisoners have the privilege to be treated under international standard?

Nizami was sent back to the jail after the interrogation. The investigators said they have maintained international standard and transparency during the interrogation.

Nizami’s lawyer Tajul Islam and the doctor from the prison hospital were staying at the adjacent room in compliance with the instruction by the International Crimes Tribunal.

Talking to reporters, advocate Tazul Islam alleged the investigators issued threats and put pressure on his client during the interrogation.

He also claimed Nizami did not say anything to the investigators during the entire interrogation which vividly contradict with the points made by tribunal lawyer.[5]

Mujahid at safe Home

Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Muzahid was brought to Safe Home on May 08, 2011. According to the briefing of investigation agency later on the same day, Muzahid said to them he was in Dhaka during war and was also a leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha. But he denied his involvement with auxiliary forces of Pakistani occupation army.

The investigation agency said they would again appeal to the International Crimes Tribunal for permission to quiz Muzahid as he avoided several significant queries on his anti-liberation role.

Muzahid’s advocate Ahsan Kabir, who was in a room adjacent to the interrogation room, told reporters that his client did not say anything about his involvement with Al-Badr or his role in 1971.

He, however, denied any pressure from the investigation lawyers.[6]

SQ Chowdhury at Safe Home

On May 10, 2011, BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was quizzed at a Dhanmondi “safe home” where he was taken from Dhaka Central Jail around 9:10am. The interrogation ended at about 5:00pm.

The team led by Abdur Razzak quizzed him over his role, activities and political affiliation before, during and after the 1971 war.

“During the questioning, he [Salauddin] repeatedly shouted and ridiculed when we showed him evidence of his involvement in war crimes,” a member of the investigation agency told.

However, the interrogators extracted valuable information about his involvement in some of those crimes, said Abdul Hannan Khan, coordinator of the investigation agency.

“The information he gave will help us advance our probe,” Hannan said. He, however, would not disclose any information.

The investigation agency will appeal to the International Crimes Tribunal to quiz him again if need be.[7]
Before he was brought to Safe Home, SQ Chowdhury told to journalists, “as per section 16 (2) of the International Crime Tribunal Act, no admission or confession can be taken by coercion or undue influence. So I’ll say nothing before them. If the authority publishes any statement in my name, don’t believe those falsities”.[8]

Sayeedi at Safe Home


Sayedee, the Nayeb-e-Ameer (Vice-President) and executive council member, was taken to the ‘safe home’ from Dhaka Central Jail around 9:45am on Thursday and was questioned from 10am to 5pm with a one-hour break. Later, he was sent back to the jail.

Talking to journalists, Chief Coordinator of the investigation agency Abdul Hannan Khan said Sayedee told them that he added the word ‘Sayedee’ with his name as he hailed from Southkhali village. He also changed his date of birth. And he did all this in a bid to eliminate his identity as war criminal, Khan added.

Khan also said Sayedee admitted Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams, auxiliary forces of Pakistani occupation army during the Liberation War– committed heinous crimes.

“But he tactfully denied his involvement in these crimes,” Khan said.[9]

Sayedee’s lawyer Barrister Tanbir Ahmed told journalists that, investigators warned him not to ask Sayeedi about the interrogation. He said, he was staying beside the room where Sayeedi’s interrogation was going on. But he didn’t listen anything of that conversation.

Violation of Key Directions given by Tribunal

The International Crimes Tribunal made some directions to the Investigators while interrogating Motiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Muhammad Muzahid. A brief compilation of the directions is given below:

The tribunal directed the jail authorities to make arrangements to take the detainees to the “Safe Home” and bring them back to prison.
To quiz Nizami and Mujahid from 10.00am to 5.00pm on two separate dates.
The Tribunal asked the authorities concerned to have doctors for the accused in a room next to the one where the accused will be grilled.
During the interrogation, a counsel for each of the Jamaat leaders will remain present at a side room having a see-through arrangement, but the advocate will be barred from listening to the interrogation.
The counsel is allowed to consult with the accused in the break-time of interrogations.[10]

But, in the course of interrogation the investigation authority breached some key directions illustrated below-

According to direction, the detainees were supposed to keep in safe home from 10pm to 5pm. But Mr. Motiur Rahman Nizami was kept in safe home from 8.30pm to 5.15pm which was the violation of Tribunal’s direction.
During the interrogation of BNP leader Mr. Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, neither lawyer nor a doctor was present at safe home although to ensure a lawyer and a doctor was one of the prerequisites of the interrogation in Safe Home.

It was directed by the Tribunal that, During the interrogation, a counsel for each of the leaders will remain present at a side room having a see-through arrangement… but in fact, there was no facility for the counsels to see their clients during the interrogation.
Counsel was authorized to consult with the accused, but in the case of Sayeedi, the investigation authority barred the lawyer from asking Sayeedi about anything related to interrogation which is a gross violation of Tribunal’s direction.

Torture during interrogation

Coercion, undue influence and threat are the things prohibited by all laws to be used against the detainees during interrogation. For example:

In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.[11]
Any Police officer may examine orally any person supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case but such person is not bound to answer those questions which would have a tendency to expose him to a criminal charge.[12] At the same time, no police officer or other person in authority shall make pressure of inducement, threat or promise while interrogating the accused.[13]
Law of Evidence clearly declares that, no confession made to a police officer shall be proved as against the accused person and such confession cannot be made except under the authority of Magistrate empowered to do so.[14]
Even the law by which the International Crime Tribunal is running guaranteed that, no confession or information can be taken by coercion.[15]

But, during the interrogation at safe home the top political leaders of Bangladesh were tortured mentally for serving confession such as-

While interrogating, the investigation authority created pressure on Nizami for confession. Nizami’s Lawyer Advocate Tajul Islam alleged it.[16]
After ending interrogation, in front of media, Mr. Hannan Khan, the spokesman of investigation authority was asked that, whether Nizami was tortured during interrogation. In reply he said, “Does Guantanamo Be obey international standard? Our system is better.”[17]
After the interrogation of Mr. Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Mr. Hannan Khan again briefed the journalists. “Has he made any confession?”- in reply he added, “Accused doesn’t want to confess, it is to be. We’ve got much information in this way.”[18]

The above statements make it clear that, interrogation in Safe Home did not go by the rule.

Media Trial

Ironically, the investigation authority of Bangladesh, after any interrogation, conducts a media trial where defamatory and false statements regarding accused are pushed to journalists. In this way, the authority practices the violation of rule of law in this country.

The same drama was staged once again during the media meeting after the interrogation:

After interrogation of Nizami, the authority said, Nizami admitted that genocide and mass rape took place during the Liberation War but denied his involvement in such heinous activities. He claimed he “had to be involved” with Al-Badr and Al-Shams, auxiliary forces of Pakistani occupation army, in the face of death threats. But, his lawyer Advocate Tajul Islam denied this and told reporters he was quiet during the interrogation. “He didn’t utter a single word,” he claimed.[19] Advocate Tajul also claimed that, after ending interrogation he asked the investigation officer whether Nizami said anything during interrogation. The officer replied him, the statements were confidential and therefore cannot be published. But, they briefed before media about his confession which was completely bogus.[20] The lawyer alleged that, information received from interrogation may be produced before the Court for the inspection. But, why were they published before media? They must take responsibility.”[21] On May 8, 2011, Nizami’s Lawyer placed a formal appeal urging the withdrawal of the statement of Investigation authority regarding Nizami’s confession in safe home. It was also prayed that, the statement published by investigation authority in the name of Nizami would not be considered while trying the case.
After interrogation of Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary Generaly Ali Ahsan Muhammad Muzahid, the authority briefed before media that, Muzahid regrets his anti-liberation role in 1971 and explained that it was played “out of emotion”, said the agency probing war crimes. But Muzahid’s counsel Ahsan Kabir, who was in a room adjacent to the interrogation room, told reporters that his client did not say anything about his involvement with Al-Badr or his role in 1971.[22]
On the day of interrogating Mr. SQC, the investigation authority defamed him before media by saying, “He behaved like a mad man. He lied and talked rubbish most of the time.” Like the same way mentioned earlier the authority claimed also claimed they extracted valuable information about his involvement in some of those crimes.[23]
After Sayeedi’s interrogation in safe home, the investigators briefed that, Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee’s original name was Abu Naim Delawar Hossain but he changed it soon after the independence just to hide his involvement in mass killings, forcible conversion of Hindus to Muslim and incidents of rape during the Liberation War. But he tactfully denied his involvement in these crimes.[24] But Sayeedi’s lawyer denied the truthfulness of this statement.


The concept of safe home is unfamiliar to our legal system and against sec. 167 of Bangladesh Supreme Court and 53 DLR.[25] Therefore, interrogation in safe home is not acceptable. But, the investigation agency repeatedly said after every interrogation in safe home that, they would again appeal to the International Crimes Tribunal for permission to quiz the same persons for the purpose of extracting more information. It’s recommended that, such interrogation should not be held further.
The High Court Division of the Supreme Court made an order to the Government ordering special directions regarding interrogation as it directed, “the investigating Officer shall interrogate the accused, if necessary for the purpose of investigation in a room specially made for the purpose with glass wall and grill in one side, within the view but not within hearing of a close relation or lawyer of the accused.”[26] Investigation authority must obey this direction during interrogation. At the same time, the Govt. should take immediate step to make a safe place inside the prison in appliance of the direction of the Supreme Court.

Posted in International
Tagged Bangladesh







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