Due Process on trial in Bangladesh as British courts expose hacking, forced confessions and torture being used in Dhaka's High Court.
The most important court case you never heard of, that could potentially impact the security of international investors, travellers, and expats across the globe; is currently playing out in the High Court in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
On the surface, the case seems obscure enough, and its significance minimal; but legal experts warn that the outcome will set a precedent that could affect the future of international law, human rights, and determine the fate of the concept of due process itself.
The investment assets of Swiss national Khater Massaad were frozen by a Bangladeshi court late last year on the basis of a judgment against Massaad in the UAE. Massaad is appealing that order, and it has been conditionally suspended while the appeal process is underway. This summary, however, conceals the true import of the case. Radha Stirling, founder of Due Process International and CEO of Detained in Dubai, explains, “What is being decided in the Massaad case has nothing to do with the freezing of assets, but rather, it has to do with accepting or rejecting the validity of the original judgment in Ras Al Khaimah from which the case in Bangladesh stems. This is a judgment reached by a captive judiciary in the UAE, based on fabricated evidence, testimony extracted by torture and intimidation, and a despotic legal system that is currently being sued in the UK and America for allegations of grave human rights violations, gross abuse of due process, and illegal hacking of private communications. This is a case that RAK admitted was baseless when they tried to pursue Dr. Massaad in Saudi Arabia, where the case was ultimately dismissed. The ruling of the High Court in Dhaka will either be in defence of internationally accepted norms of due process and human rights, or it will represent the abandonment of those core principles of law. The importance of this case cannot be overstated.”
Khater Massaad is the former friend and close adviser of RAK’s Ruler, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qassimi, and headed the emirate’s drive to become a hub for foreign investment as CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority until Saud undertook a purge of high-ranking executives to consolidate his power amidst a political row with his brothers. Massaad was forced out, and along with others from RAK’s investment sector like Oussama El Omari, Karam Al Sadeq, Jihad Quzmar, and Johnson George, he has been subjected to a campaign of legal abuse, propaganda, threats and intimidation by Sheikh Saud and his government.
“Sheikh Saud has stopped at nothing to persecute Dr. Massaad,” Stirling says, “New information continues to surface about the lengths to which he has gone to punish Khater Massaad, not for any wrongdoing, but because he suspected Massaad of having the wrong sympathies in the family dispute over the throne. Jihad Quzmar and Karam Al Sadeq, both of whom are currently in detention in Ras Al Khaimah, are suing Sheikh Saud in the UK, along with members of his inner circle, for alleged torture and human rights abuses committed against them in order to force them to corroborate Saud’s false accusations against Dr. Massaad. Farhad Azima, an associate of Dr. Massaad, is also suing Saud in the UK for the state-sponsored hacking of his email as part of RAK’s campaign against Khater Massaad. Oussama El Omari, the former head of the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone Authority is suing Saud in the United States for false prosecution, abuse, and slander because he too refused to wrongfully incriminate Massaad.
“The relentless abuse of power by Sheikh Saud is breathtaking,” Stirling continues, “There is evidence that he has tampered with the legal process, potentially bribed judges, journalists, paid PR firms to conduct smear campaigns, hired companies in India to hack private emails, and virtually deputised lawyers from Dechert law firm to engage in blackmail, threats, and ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ which are classified as torture; all to fabricate a case against Dr. Massaad. RAK has a puppet judiciary, and when Saud is unable to get a foreign court to validate his charges, he gets a rubber stamp verdict from his own court and seeks enforcement of it abroad. That is what has happened now in Bangladesh, after the case was rejected in Saudi Arabia. So if the High Court in Dhaka goes along with Saud’s case against Khater Massaad, they will be validating every illegal measure Saud undertook to create the case – hacking, blackmail, intimidation, corruption, and torture.”
Stirling warns that such a ruling would have a chilling effect on investor confidence in Bangladesh. “The rule of law and due process form the basis for investor security in any jurisdiction. Ras Al Khaimah is already suffering a severe backlash from investors who no longer feel the emirate is a safe destination for their capital due to Sheikh Saud’s despotic behaviour, if business people feel that Bangladesh will not uphold the integrity of due process protections, and that local courts will comply with judgements from lawless international jurisdictions, this will be devastating to their confidence in the Bangladeshi legal system. No one wants to invest in a place where courts accept the legitimacy of confession through torture, falsified evidence, and the judgments of kangaroo courts. Bangladesh has the opportunity now to stand up for due process and international norms of justice and to halt RAK’s attempts to essentially expand the jurisdiction of Sheikh Saud beyond his borders.”
The High Court of England has summarily refused extradition to the UAE precisely because the country as a whole is a habitual human rights abuser and the legal system falls abysmally short of international standards. RAK, Stirling notes, is a uniquely egregious offender.
“We have been in contact with the Swiss ambassador to Bangladesh, as well as to the UAE; and we have communicated with business and investment groups involved in financing projects in Bangladesh to alert them about this case and the ramifications of its outcome,” Stirling explains, “It is immensely concerning to them and the High Court in Dhaka should know that considerably more is at stake in this case than the assets of Khater Massaad. The court will be deciding whether or not due process is respected in Bangladesh, and thus, whether or not Bangladesh is a safe place to invest in or even visit.”