152 sentenced to death for the 2009 Bangladesh Rifles mutiny

Press release

On 5 November, a Bangladeshi civil court sentenced 152 people to death during the re-trial of 847 soldiers involved in the 2009 Bangladesh Rifles [1] mutiny. Besides the death sentences, 161 people were sentenced to life in prison, 256 people received prison terms between three and ten years and 277 people were acquitted.

The Bangladesh Rifles mutiny, which broke out on the border guards’ Dhaka compound on 25-26 February 2009 and lasted 33 hours, was triggered by longstanding grievances among lower ranks, including demands over salaries and better facilities. It led to the killing of 74 people including 57 top- and mid-ranking army officers and several civilians. A number of women relatives of the officers suffered sexual assaults. After the mutiny, corpses were found buried in mass graves and bodies were not returned to families.

As of today, military courts have condemned more than 6,000 soldiers for their involvement in the mutiny. However, finding the maximum prison sentence of seven years under Bangladeshi military code too light, the army insisted that some of the soldiers should be re-tried by a civil court, which has the power to give death sentence.

About 50 suspects died in custody. No independent review of the mutiny, the conditions of detention of suspected mutineers and the trial process was considered by the authorities.

The mass trials before both the military and civil courts were far from meeting international fair trial standards. The imposition of the death penalty by the civil court is even more condemnable as it constitutes a violation of the right to life as well as a cruel and degrading punishment, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

The government of Bangladesh should join the international trend towards the abolition of the death penalty and immediately commute the death sentences into lesser sentences, said Florence Bellivier, FIDH representative on the death penalty.

FIDH is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances since it is an irreversible, cruel, and degrading punishment, that may amount to torture

The trial took place in a very tense political context in Bangladesh. The governing Awami League and the main opposition party, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), carefully watch the army ahead of Bangladesh’s next general elections, due by 24 January 2014. In the past, the army has already attempted to overthrow the government 21 times, twice successfully.

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