Have a good day Barrister Toby Cadman

Abdul Mannan
Published : 8 April 2015, 11:24 AM
Updated : 8 April 2015, 11:24 AM

I usually do not enter into confrontational dialogue with readers of my opinion editorials or any other commentary I write for newspapers. But when it comes to Barrister Toby Cadman, I think certain things need to be addressed for the convenience and information of the readers.

On February 28, 2015 in my regular commentary written for a national English daily titled 'Keep the armed forces out of dirty politics,' I happened to mention Barrister Toby Cadman, the Jamaat appointed international lobbyist against the proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) to make the tribunal and the trials of the criminals of the Jamaat for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in 1971 controversial in different international forums.

I mentioned amongst the many conspiracies hatched in the international arena against Bangladesh and its secular democracy, the efforts of Jamaat and its lobbyists must also be taken into consideration.

In my commentary, I mentioned how certain BNP leaders and their paid agents sitting in on UN press briefings in New York under the guise of journalists, were regularly trying to tarnish the image of the Bangladesh Armed Forces and doing their best to prevent recruitment of troops from Bangladesh for the UN Peace Keeping Forces (UNPF).

This is not a conspiracy against any particular government or party but it is a conspiracy against the state, the nation, and one of its important establishments – the defence forces. Incidentally, Bangladesh is the largest contributor to the UNPF and on many occasions its members have risked their lives to save others in parts of the world where they are posted. UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon on a number of occasions praised the bravery, valour, and contribution our forces made on duty with the UNPF.

In my commentary, I wrote "things may not be going in BNP-Jamaat axis way in Bangladesh but outside the country both parties are desperately trying to work against the country and its interest disregarding the minimum sense of patriotism and showing any signs of love for the country and its people.

"First it was Jamaat who appointed one Jewish attorney Toby Cadman to campaign against the trial of their senior leaders for their crimes against humanity and war crimes in 1971 by the International Crimes Tribunal. For this they put together a fund of [a] few million US dollars and campaigned through Toby Cadman's firm and himself in person."

Barrister Cadman, in response to my commentary, wrote to the editor of the daily on March 4, 2015 saying that "There are a number of inaccuracies in the article. First, the article refers to me as a 'Jewish' attorney. I don't see why ethnicity of faith is relevant to work. (Sometimes it may be relevant under the current geo-political order).  I am a British Barrister and I do not follow any faith. I am birth Christian but don't see how any of that is relevant. The author has attempted to label me as Jewish in a derogatory manner which is inappropriate conduct and borderline anti-Semitic.

"Second, the article suggests that I have campaigned against the trials. This is quite untrue. I have always maintained that there should be a trial process, but I have always insisted that process must be fair and transparent. To require fair trials for my clients does not equate to campaigning against the process … I have worked hard to ensure accountability in Bosnia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. The fact that I represent defendants in Bangladesh does not detract from my commitment to justice."

Incidentally five of the top Jamaat perpetrators are his clients and by this time all of them have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment or may have to walk the gallows.

Firstly, when I mentioned Barrister Cadman as a 'Jewish' attorney there were no negative connotations attached, and has nothing to do with being borderline anti-Semitic. In my response to the Editor of the Daily Sun, I wrote that I am not anti-Semitic in any manner.

As a matter of fact I am absolutely indifferent about what religion or faith people belong to, though I am a practicing Muslim. However, I am against Zionism and against those who cross their limits in the name of religion.

That is why I have written against Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and the present ISIS menace. If someone chooses not to follow any faith, such as Barrister Cadman, the choice is his or her own. Some religious bigots and fanatics in Bangladesh, even Jamaat-e-Islami whom Barrister Cadman represents, would brand him as an 'atheist' and would be after his blood. However, that is a problem of Barrister Cadman and not mine.

Furthermore Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all considered Abrahamic religions by many scholars. To us, belief or faith is not of much importance as it is in many western nations. The public harassment that one has to go through at European or US airports for being Muslim is no longer a secret.

All Muslims are not first cousins of Bin-Laden, nor are they fanatics whom many Westerners would like to believe.

Barrister Cadman in this letter wrote, that he did not campaign against the trials of his clients but stressed on the trial process which according to him should be fair and transparent. He is not alone in such a campaign.

The trials, which were stopped by General Zia in 1975, were left to hibernate since then, until Sheikh Hasina formed her government in 2009. It was one of her election pledge that, once her party is elected to power, one of the top agendas for her government would be to try those involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes in 1971.

It was not an easy task to put together lots of evidences, call witnesses and constitute tribunals after a lapse of more than three decades. From her commitment, internal pressure from victims of these criminals, the general public, and especially the freedom fighters of 1971 under the banner of Sector Commanders' Forum and other civic forums, the government had to take up the issue on a priority basis and finally the trial began in 2010.

Ironically, some of the local lawyers who stood for the state before 1975 now switched sides and began defending the same bunch of criminals they were prosecuting earlier. When the trials began afresh they cried foul, and so did people like Barrister Cadman and many of his kinsmen.

They had to because they are paid generously by their clients to do so. How much Barrister Cadman receives as payment, is not known. However, local media discloses that Jamaat has managed to put together a fund of around a few million dollars to pay their international lobbyists and lawyers.

A lawyer's primary responsibility to their client is to defend his or her client, and not campaign against the trial process outside the court and in other countries, which Barrister Cadman conveniently does.

After every judgment is pronounced by the Tribunal Barrister Cadman writes or speaks in Jamaat rallies, either in London or in New York, against the trail and the judgment. In December 2014, during a seminar held in Jamaica York College in New York organised by Human Rights and Development (financed by Jamaat-e-Islami), he criticised Bangladesh and the incumbent government for the trial.

He said accountability is necessary for the trial of war criminals, and without the involvement of international quarters, the trial would not be possible. In his speech, the British lawyer said there was no mature democracy in Bangladesh so that the government could have tolerated criticism.

He said "I have talked to the representatives of UK, USA, and European Union and they all have expressed concern." He said the trial of war crimes in Bangladesh is not being done as per national and international standards.

Those present in the seminar included the close family members of those being tried at the ICT included Nakibur Rahman, the son of sentenced Matiur Rahman Nizami the Supreme Commander of Al-Badr Jamaat killing squad in 1971.

The British also arranged for a press briefing by Nakibur Raman at the National Press Club in New York City. Defaming Bangladesh and its legal system in any way, more so on foreign soil by a foreigner, is absolutely uncalled for and tantamount to sedition and treason.

Unfortunately because the learned Barrister is a foreigner Bangladesh cannot perhaps try him on these charges in Bangladesh. Under Bangladesh law, a foreigner cannot come and defend his client in local court, unless they are cleared by the Bangladesh Bar Council. Barrister Cadman tried earlier to defend his clients in the Tribunal but was barred from doing so under the law of the country. He made a number of visits to Bangladesh when the trial began to advise his colleagues here, and he continues to do so at present, I presume.

On October 23, 2012 the influential Saudi Gazette from Jeddah, KSA, published a front page article based on an interview given by him entitled "Executions preordained in Bangladesh war crimes trial."

A similar story featured in the Arab News of October 31, 2012. In both features he again criticised the trial process of his clients, and said that the Tribunal was rushing through the trial by restricting the number of defence witnesses to only 12.

He also met influential Royal family members to make his point. Apparently it did not work. The Barrister should know that any court worth its name cannot allow a couple of thousands 'witnesses' to be examined by the prosecution.

If that were the case, the trial would never end. Mr. Cadman is also very popular with Al-Jazeera TV which regularly telecasts his interview. He regularly lobbies with the UN. In the Nuremberg trials, there were no witnesses and those who defended the Nazi criminals were themselves tried later on and sentenced.

At the moment there are about seven such tribunals operating in different parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa. No court is as transparent as the ones in Bangladesh. Even about seventy Turkish sympathisers of clients of Barrister Cadman were allowed to enter the Tribunal and witness the proceedings.

Anyone with the permission of the Tribunal can witness the proceedings of the court at any time, something not easily available in other similar courts functioning elsewhere. In no other courts are appeals to the highest court of the country allowed against a verdict by aggrieved parties – a privilege permissible under the International Crimes Tribunal Act of 1973.

How much transparency and due process does Barrister Toby Cadman expect from a country which, according to the learned Barrister, has 'no mature' democracy?

Kamruzzaman one of the clients of the learned Barrister even had his review date re-fixed by the Supreme Court, because his local counterpart and Kamruzzaman's attorney were busy running for the Supreme Court Bar elections. Still doubtful about the transparency of our legal system Mr. Cadman?

Barrister Cadman makes his living representing those accused of war crimes, not only in Bangladesh, but in other countries as well. He regularly attends rallies organised by Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Brotherhood held in London, and advocates their causes.

Muslim Brotherhood, born in Egypt, is considered the womb of all sorts of militancy and terrorism in the name of Islam. He frequently talks about international enquiry and cites examples of Cambodia.

I am sure Barrister Cadman will agree with me that Bangladesh has people in the legal profession of international repute, including those defending his clients in Dhaka. Cambodia neither had any law nor the expertise, and that is why they regularly draw on Bangladesh's experience and need international assistance.

Barrister Cadman has the discretion of defending his clients in any way he can, but campaigning against the trial is not something that falls within his purview and I feel is unethical. Bangladesh is run by its own Constitution and its own laws, and all of these are internationally recognised.

If he is so keen in fighting for human rights, he can very well practice that in EU, or in his own country where terrorists are seldom taken prisoners, but executed summarily. I would not take any exception to that. Terrorists and those involved in war crimes must not be shown any mercy for the greater cause of humanity and peace.

Have a good day Barrister Toby Cadman.