Trials in Absentia: Jurisprudence and Commentary on the Judgment in Chief Prosecutor v. Abul Kalam Azad in the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

Men sitting in courtroom with soldiers

The first trial in absentia in an international court occurred at the International Military Tribunals of Nuremberg after World War II. The trial was held pursuant to the Nuremberg Charter, which permitted trials in absentia whenever the Tribunal found them necessary in the interests of justice. International courts and tribunals, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Special Courts in Cambodia, and the International Criminal Court, have rejected the introduction of trials in absentia. In certain circumstances however, hearings in absentia are allowed.

For the first time since Martin Bormann’s 1946 trial in absentia in the Nuremberg tribunals, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (“STL”) ruled in favor of initiating a trial in absentia in an international court in the case of The Prosecutor v. Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra. The case of The Prosecutor v. Abul Kalam Azad in the International Crimes Tribunal (Bangladesh) is another example of a controversial ruling to hold a trial in absentia. The Bangladeshi government established the tribunal in 2009 to investigate and prosecute individuals for war crimes committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Abul Azad, the defendant in the case, was a politician and cleric tried and convicted in absentia for genocide and crimes against humanity on January 21, 2013.

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