Foreign Policy Blogs

Detained BNP Leader SQ Chowdhury Continually Denied Medical Treatment

The Awami League government has sped ahead to put together a working International Tribunal to try individuals accused of committing war crimes during the conflict-ridden events of 1971.  So far the procedures though seemingly smooth haven’t measured up to international legal norms and values- values that one might suppose stands behind the “International-ness” of the Tribunal.

The 1973 Act which established the Tribunal, which is only now coming to the fore, nearly 40 years out, allows capital punishment. The European Union has already stood against the imposition of capital punishment in the proceedings, while protesting extrajudicial killings that are a matter of day to day news in Bangladesh.  However, the case of one individual embroiled in these proceedings has become something just short of a lightning rod for international enquiry and condemnation.

Late last year in December, top BNP leader S. Q. Chowdhury was arrested in his home, beaten by members of the paramilitary outfit, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and was then hauled off to jail.  His family immediately sent out the word that Mr. Chowdhury had been subjected to torture at home, and that he was later denied medical assistance when his health began to fail.  In time–it seems a good ,long time–international media outlets like the Guardian published news of his arrest and detainment by the RAB.

Now, as the Tribunal goes about its contested business, S Q Chowdhury’s family claim that he has been continually denied medical services since his arrest and detainment.  The family claim that Mr. Chowdhury has been denied medical care for two months, during which time the family members claim he suffered a stroke and experienced partial paralytic affects of the stroke.

Recently two neurologists went to look into his condition in jail.  A family member who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid further political retribution claimed  that Mr. Chowdhury “still needs a wheelchair to come see us and can only walk short distances unassisted. He refused to let the doctors see him because it was clear to him that they had just come for show and were not interested in his health and well being.”  There seems little doubt that the claims of denial of medical attention that the family of Mr. Chowdhury have made require independent third party attention.  Unfortunately, so far the government seems unwilling to allow a spotlight to shine on this particular individual’s case.

The next date for his hearing at the International War Crime Tribunal is on April 19th and it remains to be seen what will happen then. The family claim that the case proceedings on that day will likely entail an interrogation whereby the prosecution will interrogate Mr. Chowdhury without the assistance of a lawyer, because the 1973 Act under which the Tribunal is being held does not provide for such basic rights.

This event, if it turned out in the way projected, would surely fly right in the face of international legal norms.

Indeed, sources who wish to remain anonymous insist that U.S. Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp has submitted a report on the Tribunal’s proceedings to the government of Bangladesh (GoB). But per usual, it’s a secret affair. However some media outlets have noted that he has made several recommendations on how to bring the Tribunal to international standards.

The government has so far been resistant to attend to international normative standards that one might think would prevail in Bangladesh.  The Tribunal did nod toward international invocations of sane and standard international jurisprudence by granting bail to one individual sought for war crimes, BNP law maker Abdul Alim.  However, it seems quite apparent that S.Q. Chowdhury is a bigger name, richer in family history and wider connections.  He remains something of an exemplar, the kind of man who seldom falls victim to politics per usual, so it’s an open question whether his family will be provided the same relief as Mr. Alim’s family are no doubt enjoying.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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