Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

The liability of Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin

Mueen-Uddin was convicted in absentia by Bangladesh’s special war crimes court for crimes against humanity pertaining to the murder of 18 individuals during the final month of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971

Update : 02 Mar 2023, 11:17 PM

In Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin v. Home Secretary, the English High Court turned down an application filed by the absconding war crimes convict Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin to hold the UK government liable for defamation and a breach of data protection rights. 

Mueen-Uddin was convicted in absentia by Bangladesh's special war crimes court for crimes against humanity pertaining to the murder of 18 individuals during the final month of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. 

There is both a preponderance of evidence and clear and convincing evidence against Mueen-Uddin concerning his involvement in the massacre of pro-independence Bengali civilians in 1971. 

This evidence includes witness accounts from the family members of Mueen Uddin's victims and international and domestic news reports in mainstream newspapers which are reliable sources. 

On the standard of proof beyond all reasonable doubt, the International Crimes Tribunal has faced criticism regarding its standard of fairness and procedural integrity. 

While the UK government itself noted instances of witness coercion, it must be noted that in the case of Mueen Uddin, there is longstanding witness testimony corroborated by contemporary news reports in 1972, as well as a Channel 4 investigative documentary in 1994; all of which predate the war crimes trial process. 

Mueen-Uddin has appealed to the UK Supreme Court. He claims to have been a journalist caught in the crosshair in 1971 despite credible witness accounts that he guided militias to their intended targets. 

He also claims to have left the country before the massacre he is accused of took place. 

Mueen-Uddin claims to have resided in India and Nepal before settling down in the UK in 1973. It is questionable whether Mueen-Uddin lawfully left the country; whether he lawfully entered India and Nepal via the normal immigration process; and whether he lawfully resided in India and Nepal. 

In 1972, The New York Times and The Bangladesh Observer reported on the murder allegations against Mueen-Uddin. Yet, Mueen-Uddin was successfully able to present himself as a refugee. 

After obtaining asylum in the UK, Mueen-Uddin became a leader of the Muslim community in East London. He was one of the founders of the Muslim Council of Britain and the East London Mosque. Mueen-Uddin became a naturalized British citizen in 1984. 

In 2009, Mueen-Uddin forced Britain's Guardian newspaper to apologize for publishing the allegations against him. Defamation law has become a useful tool for Mueen-Uddin to silence his critics. 

He has sued the UK Government for defamation merely because of a footnote in a countering extremism report which referred to his conviction in Bangladesh. 

Since receiving asylum, Mueen-Uddin emerged as a prominent community leader among British Muslims. He even had the audacity to meet with King Charles while the latter was Prince of Wales. 

Mueen-Uddin's case raises questions about the British asylum process. Even as many legitimate cases of political asylum fail to succeed, Mueen-Uddin succeeded despite his dubious background. 

Mueen-Uddin represents the quintessential Jamaat con man: A religious zealot masquerading as a journalist and humanitarian. Mueen-Uddin acknowledges that he was a member of the student-wing of Jamaat in 1971. The rank and file of three Jamaat militias in 1971, including the Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams, was drawn primarily from the student-wing of Jamaat. 

The Al-Badr was at the forefront of atrocities against pro-independence intellectuals during the final days of the war. It is also clear from credible sources that Mueen-Uddin was a prominent leader of the student-wing of Jamaat in 1971.

Mueen-Uddin contends that his opposition to Bangladesh's independence was based on personal beliefs. He denies any involvement in wartime atrocities. A preponderance of witness accounts differ with Mueen-Uddin's narrative. 

Mueen-Uddin's prominent association with Jamaat and his reputation as a high profile member of the anti-independence militia should give any court pause for thought when it comes to defamation. 

The Guardian was wrong to apologize to Mueen-Uddin. Defending human rights and the right to a fair trial should never undermine the legitimate criminal case against Mueen-Uddin. 

Umran Chowdhury works in the legal field. 

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