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The INTERNATIONAL CRIMES (TRIBUNALS) ACT, 1973 (ACT NO. XIX OF 1973), was enacted by the sovereign parliament of Bangladesh to provide for the detention, prosecution and punishment of persons responsible for committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law . The Tribunal constituted under the Act shall have the power to try and punish any individual or group of individuals or organizations, or any member of any armed, defense or auxiliary forces irrespective of his nationality, who commits or has committed, in the territory of Bangladesh, whether before or after commencement of this Act, any crimes mentioned in sub section [2] of section 3 of the Act. Under section 6 of the Act the government may, by notification in the official gazette, set up one or more tribunals each consisting of a Chairman and not less than two and not more than four other Members.

Some significant changes have been brought in the Act, by way of amendment, in 2009 and thereafter, to come out from the culture of impunity the government , for the purpose of section 3 of the Act, by notification in official gazette has set up the ‘Tribunal’ on 25 March 2010. The tribunal consists of three Judges of whom one is Chairman and two are members.

On 22/3/2012 government by official gazette notification established another tribunal namely international crimes tribunal-2. Thus, presently, two tribunals established under the ICTA (1973) are in operation with the same jurisdiction mentioned in section 3 of the ICTA (1973). The ICT-1 and the ICT-2 has separate rules of procedures of its own.

The government simultaneously constituted a Prosecution team headed by a ‘Chief prosecutor’ under section 7 of the Act and the Investigation Agency under section 8 of the Act. The registry is composed of Registrar, Deputy Registrar and personnel. After formation of the Tribunal and its Registry, the Tribunal under the power conferred in section 22 of the Act formulated its own ‘Rules of Procedure’ (ROP) and it was published in gazette on 17.7.20100.

On completion of investigation, the Investigation Agency is to submit a ‘Report ‘ to the Chief prosecutor by examine which it shall prepare a ‘Formal Charge’ and shall submit it together with materials, documents, statement of witness etc. before the tribunal. After taking cognizance of offences, if the allegations are prima facie found considering the materials, documents, statement of witnesses and the formal charge adequate opportunity is given to the accused to defend its own interest. At this stage, the defense is entitled to have copy of all the materials, documents, statement of witnesses, DVDs etc upon which the prosecution rely so that the same enable the accused in preparing its own defense and interest.

Tribunal, on hearing both sides and on perusal of materials, documents, statement of witnesses, DVDs may frame charge(s), if it is satisfied that there is reasonable ground to believe, prima facie, that the accused committed the offences as enumerated in the Act of 1973. After framing charge, trial commences and both sides shall have rights to adduce and examine witnesses in support of their respective cases and defense. Under section 21(1) of the Act a person convicted of any crime specified in section 3 and sentenced by a Tribunal shall have the right to appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, the highest judicial forum of the country, against such conviction and sentence. Under section 21(2) the government or the complainant or the informant also shall have the right of appeal against an order and verdict of acquittal or an order of sentence.

The provision laid down in Section 6 (2A) that “the tribunal shall be independent in the exercise of its judicial functions and shall ensure fair trial” is quite compatible with the international standard. The degree of fairness as has been contemplated in the Act and the Rules of Procedure formulated by the Tribunal under the powers conferred in section 22 of the principal Act are to be assessed with reference to the national needs such as, the long denial of justice to the victims of the atrocities committed during 1971 independence war and the nation as a whole. It is necessary to state that the provisions of the ICTA 1973 [(International Crimes (Tribunals) Act,1973] and the Rules framed offer adequate compatibility with the rights of the accused enshrined under Article 14 of the ICCPR. The 1973 Act of Bangladesh has the merit and mechanism of ensuring the standard of the safeguards needed universally to be provided to the person accused of crimes against humanity. The proceedings take place in public. Journalists, observers are allowed to watch the proceedings.

The Tribunal is a domestic judicial mechanism set up under national legislation and it is meant to try internationally recognized crimes and that is why it is known as ‘International Crimes Tribunal’. Despite the fact that ours is a domestic Tribunal set up under International Crimes (Tribunal) Act, 1973, a domestic legislation, the Tribunal shall never be precluded to seek guidance from the universally recognized norms and principles laid down in international law and International Criminal Law with a blend of national law, in trying the persons responsible for perpetration of crimes enumerated in the Act of 1973.All possible provisions ensuring adequate rights of defense have been enshrined in the ICTA and the Rules as well. The Tribunal is housed in a scenic building known as ‘old high court building’ having old heritage located inside the Bangladesh Supreme Court premises.

Currently [since 15.9.2015] only Tribunal-l has been functioning on being reconstituted and Tribunal-2 remains non-functioning.