B`desh to set up 2nd tribunal for war crimes trial

Last Updated: Friday, January 6, 2012 - 18:56

Dhaka: Bangladesh will set up a second
tribunal to speed up the trial of those accused of "crimes
against humanity" during the country`s 1971 `Liberation War`
against Pakistan.

"Works are underway to set up the second tribunal by next
month to reduce pressures on the existing one and expedite the
trial process," Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told agency today.
On March 25, 2010, the Awami League government set up
a special tribunal for the trial of "war criminals" accused of
genocide and those who sided with the Pakistani military
during the bloody nine months struggle.

Ahmed said the Old High Court Building has been earmarked
entirely for war crimes tribunals, relocating other offices
elsewhere.

"We need to expedite the trial process, reducing pressure
on the lone International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) as
investigations of several cases were completed and ready for
trial," he said.

The minister’s comments came as trial of seven
high-profile suspects belonging to the country`s largest
Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami and main opposition Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP) was currently underway.

Jamaat party chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary
General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and assistant secretaries
general Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Molla have been
detained for alleged crime against humanity. The two BNP
leaders are Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury MP and former minister
Abdul Alim.
They have been charged for ordering or carrying out mass
killings, arsons and lootings and rapes.

According to official figures, Pakistani troops, aided
by local collaborators, killed an estimated 3 million people,
raped about 200,000 women and forced millions more to leave
their homes during the bloody nine-month guerrilla war.

The Jamaat leaders have been accused of opposing
Bangladesh`s independence and siding with the Pakistani
troops.

Officials said they expected a court order for arrest of
the fifth suspect, Ghulam Azam, who was the then head of East
Pakistan unit of Jamaat and a provincial minister under the
Pakistani government.

If convicted, the accused could face the highest death
penalty for war crimes.

Even as Ahmed underlined the government’s decision to
speed up the trial, he declined to predict the timeline needed
to finish the trial of the seven suspects. However, he said
the progress suggested several of them could be completed by
June this year.

Sources at the special Investigation cell of the ICT
earlier said investigations were underway against more war
crime suspects.

"Many more accused could be included in the list after
investigations and therefore another tribunal would be needed
to expedite their trial," Ahmed said.

The BNP and Jamaat have dismissed the tribunal as a
government "show trial". Questioning the court`s legality,
lawyers of the Jamaat have described the trial as "politically
motivated".

On March 26, 1971, Bangladesh - then East Pakistan -
declared its independence from West Pakistan.

PTI



First Published: Friday, January 6, 2012 - 18:56

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