Bangladesh’s President OKs amendment in war crimes law

A landmark amendment will allow the prosecution to try and punish any individuals and organisations for the 1971 war crimes.

Updated: Feb 18, 2013, 20:33 PM IST

Dhaka: A landmark amendment that will allow the prosecution to try and punish any individuals and organisations, including the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, for the 1971 war crimes received assent from the Bangladeshi President on Monday.

"He (President Zillur Rahman) signed the bill into law... assenting the International Crimes Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2013," a Bangabhaban presidential palace spokesman told a news agency.

The presidential assent came as Parliament last night passed the bill empowering the special tribunals to try organisations alongside individuals for "crimes against humanity" during the country 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Before the amendment, the 1973 war crimes law allowed only the convicts to appeal against any conviction.

The government brought the changes to the law in the wake of the ongoing mass movement at Shahbagh in the capital and elsewhere in the country.

Law Ministry officials said the changes in the law, which also empowered the prosecution to file appeal against the verdict before the apex Appellate Division like the defence, would have retrospective effect from July 14, 2009.

The move could pave the way for banning Jamaat, the country`s largest Islamic party.

The development came amid intensified demands for banning the extreme right-wing party which was opposed to the country`s independence. The top leaders of Jamaat were now being tried on charges of war crimes like mass killing, arsons, rapes and tortures siding with the occupation troops. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina earlier this week said JI, a crucial ally of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), did not have right to involve in political activities in independent Bangladesh.

"They (JI leaders) will not be spared," she said after one of the leaders of the youngsters who are staging a round the clock sit in vigil at Dhaka`s Shahbagh Square was killed last week by suspected JI activists.

JI did not react immediately to the amended law but the party in a statement described Hasina`s remarks as "provocative and unconstitutional", saying her comments would create anarchy in the country.

Ten high-profile leaders, two of them from the BNP and rest from JI, are facing trials in Bangladesh`s two International Crimes Tribunals for war crimes.