Dhaka war crimes tribunal set up

A.V.

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8587511.stm

The Bangladeshi government has set up a tribunal to prosecute those accused of committing war crimes during the country's war of independence in 1971.
The government says it will put on trial those Bangladeshis who at the time collaborated with Pakistan.
Forces from Pakistan are accused of killing many civilians.
In its doomed bid to suppress independence 39 years ago, Pakistan's army unleashed terror against those suspected of supporting secession.
Many were killed and millions fled the country.
But the army was not acting alone.
It was helped by many locals, including members of the religious Jamaat-e-Islami party.
They formed militia which allegedly helped identify victims and also took part in the killings.
Their leaders were absolved after the war and are now prominent opposition figures.
The government wants to put them on trial, but they claim they are innocent and that this is a political move.
 

ajtr

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Just apology????????how about punising them who were responsible for bangladesh genocide?????
Why March 26 should be apology day for Pakistan

On March 26, the government of Pakistan should apologise to the people of Bangladesh for the genocide of March 1971, says the wellknown Pakistan television anchor Hamid Mir.
Some people hate me a lot in Pakistan. They hate me because I said sorry to Bangladeshis two years ago at the Islamabad [ Images ] Press Club for the atrocities committed by the Pakistan army [ Images ] in 1971.

They hate me because I also demanded an official apology from the government of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh for the genocide of March 1971. They say I don't know anything. They say I am not a good Pakistani.

They say I was very young in 1971 and I am not aware of the truth. Yes, I was only a young school-going boy in 1971, but I heard and read a lot about the genocide. How can I deny my late father Professor Waris Mir who visited Dhaka in October 1971 with a delegation of Punjab [ Images ] University students?

My father was a teacher of journalism at the Punjab University in Lahore [ Images ]. He was asked by the university administration to organise a visit of the student union's office bearers to Turkey, but my father took the boys to Dhaka with their consent. They wanted to know what was actually going on in Dhaka.

I still remember that after my father came back from Dhaka, he wept for many days. He told us stories of bloodshed. These stories were similar to the story of my mother.

My mother lost her whole family during the migration from Jammu to Pakistan in 1947. Her brothers were killed by Hindus and Sikhs in front of her eyes. Her mother was kidnapped.

She saved her life by hiding under the bodies of her relatives. I remember that my mother cried a lot when my father told her that Pakistan army officers raped many Bengali women. My mother said, "We sacrificed for the safety of our honour, but why we are dishonouring each other today?"

My father always said that Bengalis made Pakistan and we Punjabis broke Pakistan. Once he said that March 23 is Pakistan Day, March 26 should be the apology day and December 16 should be the accountability day. I started understanding the thoughts of my late father when I became a journalist in 1987.

When I first read the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report I felt ashamed. This Pakistani commission inquiry report admitted to murder and rapes, but despite this documentary evidence, many people still live in a state of denial.

They say Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was a traitor who created the Mukti Bahini with India's [ Images ] help and killed many innocent Punjabis and Biharis. I say Sheikh Mujib was a worker of the Pakistan movement; he was a supporter of Fatima Jinnah, Muhammad Ali Jinnah's sister, till 1966. He only demanded some provincial autonomy, but the military rulers declared him a traitor. In fact, these military rulers were traitors because their troops raped their own mothers and sisters.

They say I am a liar and I am an enemy of Pakistan.

How could I be an enemy of Pakistan? My mother sacrificed her whole family for Pakistan. My problem is that I cannot deny the truth.

A senior colleague of mine is still alive. His name is Afzal Khan. He is 73 years old. He worked with the Associated Press of Pakistan. He was secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists between 1980 and 1985.

Afzal Khan was sent to Dhaka on March 28, 1971 for coverage of the army operations. He told me many times that yes, the Mukti Bahini killed a lot of innocent people, but what the Pakistan army did was not the job of a national army.

Once he was staying at Isphahani House in Khulna, then East Pakistan. An army major offered him the chance to spend the night with a girl. When Afzal Khan asked who the girl was, the major informed him that she was the daughter of a local police officer and she could come to Isphahani House at gun point. After this incident, Afzal Khan returned to Lahore.

Afzal Khan says that all those who were responsible for the rapes and genocide of Bangladeshis never enjoyed any respect in Pakistan. The name of General Yahya Khan is still like an abuse in Pakistan. His son Ali Yahya always tries to hide from people. General Tikka Khan is still remembered as the 'butcher of Bengal'. General A A K Niazi wanted to become the 'tiger of Bengal', but he is remembered as the 'jackal of Bengal'.

A majority of Pakistanis hate all those who were responsible for the genocide of their Bangladeshi brothers. That is the reason the family members of these army officers don't even mention publicly who their fathers were. Still there are people who are not ready to admit their blunders.

These people are in a minority, but they are powerful. I consider them enemies of the Pakistan for which my mother sacrificed her family.

Why should we defend these enemies? Why doesn't our democratic government officially apologise to Bengalis? This apology will not weaken Pakistan. It will strengthen Pakistan.

I am sure that Pakistan is changing fast. A day will come very soon when the government of Pakistan will officially say sorry to Bangladeshis and March 26 will become an apology day for patriotic Pakistanis.

I want this apology because Bengalis created Pakistan.

I want this apology because Bengalis supported Jinnah's sister against General Ayub Khan till her last breath.

I want this apology because I want to forge a new relationship with the people of Bangladesh.

I don't want to live in my dirty past. I want to live in a neat and clean future. I want a bright future not only for Pakistan but also for Bangladesh.

I want this apology because I love Pakistan and I love Bangladesh.

Happy Independence Day to my Bangladeshi brothers and sisters.

Hamid Mir, Executive Editor, Geo TV, receives the SAARC Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAARC Writers Conference on Friday.
 

ajtr

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Unfinished tasks in Bangladesh​


Haroon Habib
The process of bringing to trial those involved in what should be considered crimes against humanity during the 1971 War of Liberation against Pakistan is a bold move to remove a national stigma.
The Sheikh Hasina government has opened what could turn out to be a new chapter in Bangladesh's history, setting in motion a process that was long overdue: the trial of those involved in what should be considered crimes against humanity during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan. On March 25, 2010, the government announced the formation of a tribunal, an investigation agency and a prosecution team under a law enacted as early as in 1973.

Horrendous crimes were committed during the war: some three million people were killed, nearly half a million women were raped and over 10 million people were forced to flee to India to escape military persecution. Justice has not yet caught up with the perpetrators. This has had a profound effect on Bangladesh over the decades since.

The trial is not just a fulfilment of the current government's political commitment, but a step towards meeting a national obligation to the judicial process. It is an important step to meet the nation's commitment to restoring the rule of law.

In the general elections of December 2009 in which the Awami League-led grand alliance won a resounding mandate, the issue of a war crimes trial played a role. An overwhelming majority of the people, especially those from the new generation of voters, evidently marked their unequivocal support for the demand.

The Sheikh Hasina government has recently seen the judiciary meting out punishment to the assassins of the country's founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The historic trial was held after 34 years of the bloody changeover that forced the new-born nation to detract from its secular 'pro-liberation' line. And by starting the war crimes trial three and half decades after the war, the government has shown both courage and conviction to accomplish an unfinished national task.

The investigators have identified and are pursuing the perpetrators, and the trial has popular support. But the process is facing resistance from the government's political opponents, particularly from the fundamentalist and right-wing parties. Understandably, such resistance comes mainly from the Jamaat-e-Islami that took a stand against the country breaking free from Pakistan. But the Jamaat got a boost when it mustered tactical support from its political ally, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Khaleda Zia.

The trial is meant to bring to justice those collaborators of the Pakistan Army who perpetrated genocide, mass rape, arson and looting. It is also a rejuvenation of the 'Spirit of 1971' on the basis of which the former East Pakistan became Bangladesh. The trial makes a moral point: that the rule of law must prevail and justice must be dispensed to those who committed the crimes.

The irony is that while the trial process that was initiated soon after independence got frustrated following the assassination of Sheikh Mujib in 1975. In the light of the Simla Agreement signed between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on July 3, 1972, and the tripartite agreement signed on April 9, 1974 in New Delhi, 195 Pakistani war criminals were allowed to go back to their country along with over 90,000 Prisoners of War who had surrendered to the India-Bangladesh Joint Command in Dhaka on December 16, 1971. However, those agreements have no relevance for the trial of Bangladeshi citizens who committed offences such as killing, looting, arson and repression of women.

There is some criticism with regard to the formation of the tribunal, the investigating agency and the prosecution team. Many people hold the view that some of them are not manned by competent people. Even Dr. Alauddin Ahmed, an adviser to the Prime Minister, questioned the integrity of the chief investigator, who, according to him, was an activist of the Jamaat. (Following this the government on May 3 ordered a probe into the credentials of Abdul Matin.) Such criticism apart, the trial, if it goes smoothly, will expose the sheer magnitude of one of the worst instances of massacre and mass rape in history, of which not many people are aware outside of Bangladesh.

As the unofficially compiled lists show, most of the suspected war criminals belong to the Jamaat-e-Islami which took up arms to defend Pakistan as collaborators of the Pakistan Army. The BNP and some Islamist groups also have leaders against whom charges of war crimes have been levelled. But the tribunal will prosecute only those against whom sufficient evidence is available.

Just after independence, an effort was on to put in place a process of accountability. The post-liberation government promulgated the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order in 1972. In July 1973, Parliament passed the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act to allow the prosecution of individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Around 37,000 people were jailed. An estimated 26,000 people were released when in November 1973 the government announced clemency for all except those charged with heinous crimes. Around 700 persons were convicted. But, in December 1975, following the assassination of Sheikh Mujib, all convicts and under-trial prisoners were released by the military ruler, Ziaur Rahman, who also annulled the Collaborators Act. Since then the issue had lain dormant. It resurfaced only when the Awami League, which led the Liberation War, first came to power in 1996.

In 1992, a national campaign was launched under the leadership of Jahanara Imam, writer and the mother of a liberation war martyr. This culminated in a mock public trial of war criminals in Dhaka. And as Ms. Khaleda Zia formally inducted Jamaat-e-Islami leaders into her Cabinet in 2001 and key Jamaat leaders dubbed the 1971 liberation war as a 'civil war' just to undermine national independence, the issue got national attention. The Sector Commanders' Forum, led by the front commanders of the war, and the Nirmul Committee, a secular platform to try war criminals, as well as other 'pro-liberation' organisations, spearheaded a campaign.

Although the trial has a strong moral rationale, it is no easy task. Politicians and lawyers supporting the BNP and the Jamaat have challenged the law under which the trial is on. But legal experts have rejected their pleas, saying that the law is broadly compatible with international standards.

This is no ordinary trial, but one that answers the inner-most urges of an aggrieved nation and addresses the travails of countless bereaved families, widows and orphans, those who were wounded and immobilised. The woman victims of atrocities have been conferred the honour of war heroine ('Beerangana'). Therefore, the trial is a solemn unfinished task to remove a national stigma.

The trial will have obvious political implications. The irony is that those who committed the crimes as henchmen of the Pakistan Army in 1971 are now established political leaders, well-entrenched businessmen or highly connected Islamists, all of whom have their own agenda.

The Sheikh Hasina government will have to face up to a hard reality. The war criminals of 1971, many of whom left the country at the dawn of Independence but returned and were rehabilitated thanks to the military rulers, are now organised and powerful. They have strong political backers in the BNP.

The government understands the implications and the risks. The Prime Minister has urged the people to remain 'alert and united' so that the process is not disrupted by 'conspiracies'. She knows that the move will get meaningful support from the majority of the people. A confident Sheikh Hasina said: "We're not afraid of any plot by the defeated forces. Inshallah, we will complete the trial and free the nation from the stigma."

As the trial process advances, the Jamaat has called upon its members to prepare for the ultimate sacrifice. Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed, its secretary general, claimed that India was instigating the government to go after the Jamaat. "India apprehends that only the military and the Jamaat can prevent Bangladesh from becoming a proxy for India."

But Sheikh Hasina has remained brave, and has said her government would hold the long-overdue trial no matter what the Jamaat does. "It has been our national commitment, and we shall do it," she asserted. Bangladesh, which recently ratified the Rome Statute that calls on countries to bring their own laws in line with international standards for the prosecution of individuals who commit crimes against humanity, has assured the world community that the trial process would go on and that it would conform to the highest standards.

It has been the considered view of the secular school of thought that if the trial process is withdrawn, or kept incomplete halfway through, under any compulsion or pretext, Bangladesh's 'pro-liberation' politics will suffer a blow. Those who had opposed the country's independence and perpetrated the worst crimes against humanity on religious grounds, will be able to further consolidate themselves if the trial remains incomplete.
 

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Bangladesh seeks India's help to nab Mujib killers


DHAKA: Bangladesh has sought New Delhi's help to nab two of the six fugitive killers of its founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was assassinated 35 years ago.

Home minister Sahara Khatun, who made the request to Indian High Commissioner Rajeet Mitter, did not say when the fugitive killers visited India.

Mitter assured full cooperation, The Daily Star newspaper said on Thursday.

"One or two killers visited India and we just want cooperation of the country to arrest and extradite them to Bangladesh," the minister told the envoy here Wednesday.

Bangladesh media recently speculated that two of the fugitives had surfaced in India some time back.

Called Mujib, Rahman was killed along with most of his family members in a coup Aug 15, 1975.

A dozen former army officers were sentenced in a prolonged trial and five of them were hanged earlier this year. Of the seven others, one died and six are on the run.

The present government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is Rahman's eldest daughter, has sought the help of Interpol to track down the fugitives.
 

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Bangladesh war crime probe chief quits


Thursday, 06 May, 2010

DHAKA, May 5: The lead investigator at Bangladesh's new war crimes tribunal, set up to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan, resigned on Wednesday, an official said.

Abdul Matin, a former top bureaucrat, submitted his resignation in the wake of allegations by senior officials that he had ties to the country's main Islamist party, Jamaat-i-Islami, which sided with Pakistan during the war.

"He resigned citing personal reasons," the home ministry's senior information officer Mohammad Sahenor Miah said.

Matin was named the head of the seven-member investigation team for a special tribunal, set up in March this year, to prosecute Bangladeshis who sided with Pakistan and committed murder, rape and arson during the war.

Leaders of Jamaat-i-Islami have been accused of both committing and facilitating the murder of freedom fighters and many of the country's intellectuals during the nine-month struggle.

Last month Alauddin Ahmed, an adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, accused Matin of being a key activist for the Islamic Chhatra Sangha – the now defunct student wing of Jamaat.

Matin has vigorously denied being a member of the student wing, saying that he was neither a freedom fighter nor an activist for any group which opposed the liberation struggle in 1971.

Bangladesh achieved independence after a bloody war that the government claims killed three million people.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh and father of current prime minister Hasina, had planned to put alleged war criminals on trial before his assassination in a 1975 coup, which Hasina claims was masterminded by war criminals.

At least 11,000 detained war crime suspects were set free by the post-coup government, and Bangladesh has since struggled to come to terms with its bloody birth and the break-up of the subcontinent's Muslim homeland.

A private local organisation that has investigated the conflict has identified 1,775 people, including Pakistani generals and local Islamists allied with Pakistan, as being complicit in the atrocities.—AFP
 

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