Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Amnesty Commissions as Plea Bargaining

Continuing our series regarding amnesty and truth commissions as a form of plea bargaining, the BBC had an interesting story regarding Bangladesh's new Truth and Accountability Commission.

A Truth and Accountability Commission has been set up in Bangladesh to tackle the country's endemic corruption. The interim government says it will offer partial amnesties in return for information about corrupt deals. Critics say the terms of reference are unclear and the commission will achieve little before December polls when the government is due to relinquish power.

Bangladesh remains one of the world's most corrupt countries, according to watchdog Transparency International. Last month, the group said corruption in the country had continued to thrive since the army-backed caretaker government took power last year pledging to tackle it.

Leniency Justice Habibur Rahman Khan has been appointed to chair the new three-member commission. Former Comptroller and Accountant General Asif Ali and Maj Gen Manzur Rashid Chowdhury are its other members. The three men will have 26
officials to help them at the commission's office in central Dhaka. A government spokesman said people who appeared before the commission and gave details of fraudulent deals would not be tried for their crimes and given a partial amnesty. However they would still be barred from contesting any elections for five years. The government says that anyone already convicted of corruption - serving a sentence of two years or less - will also be shown leniency by the commission if he or she confesses and returns any illegal earnings. But it says that anyone providing false or misleading information will face stiffer punishment. People convicted of arms, drugs, child trafficking and rape cases will not get any clemency.

Critics say that the commission is doomed to failure because it will not have time to hear testimonies from people who may want to appear before it. They also say that it should have started its work before the authorities began prosecuting scores of politicians and businessmen for corruption and sending them to prison. Many well-known Bangladeshis still face corruption charges, including two former prime ministers.

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