Jamaat links to UK `war crimes` meeting sparks row
Last Updated: Thursday, June 24, 2010, 20:15
Dhaka: A human rights seminar linked to Bangladesh's 1971 "war crimes" trial has sparked a row amid a report that the meet hosted at the House of Lords was closely associated with the Islamist party Jamaat which is under the scanner for its key role in the "genocide" carried out by the Pakistani military.

The British human rights parliamentary committee has admitted that the high-profile seminar it is hosting at the House of Lords on Bangladesh's 1971 war crimes trials has been organised with the assistance of a group accused of having links to the Jamaat-e-Islami, the bdnews online reported.

The seminar discussing the compatibility of the International War Crime (Tribunals) Act 1973 with international legal standards is hosted by Lord Avebury and includes speakers from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Bar Association, it said.

Lord Avebury, the vice-chair of the Parliamentary Human rights Group, was quoted as saying by the news portal that although the invitations to the seminar were sent out in his name, Justice Concern provided clerical support in sending out the invitations.

The e-mail address and contact telephone number of Justice Concern, which was linked to the Jamaat-i-Islami in Bangladesh and its sister organisations in England, was at the bottom of the invitations, the report said.

The Awami League-led government has set up a three-member special tribunal for the trial of "war criminals" accused of genocide and those who sided with the Pakistani military during the 1971 'Liberation War'.

Jamaat-e-Islami, a key ally of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and several other rightwing groups have been accused of helping the Pakistani military during the war.

Jamaat's chief Motiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid led the so-called Al-Badr forces, which is widely believed to have been involved in genocide, rape and murder of frontline intellectuals in an effort to cripple the emerging nation in 1971.

Media reports earlier said the authorities have gathered evidence against 25 high-profile "war criminals", mostly from Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Members of the Jamaat and its then student organisation Islami Chhatra Sangha are alleged to have committed crimes during the 'Liberation War'.

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.

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

Many fear the involvement of a Jamaat-linked group in the organisation of the seminar will devalue its importance and limit its impact on the Bangladesh government.

Rayhan Rashid from the War Crimes Strategy Forum, a coalition of independent activists working on the 1971 war crimes trials, said the seminar with groups linked to the Jamaat groups is not the way to get the attention of the Awami League government.

"....organising meetings jointly with Jamaat groups is not the way to get the government or others in Bangladesh to listen," Rashid said.


First Published: Thursday, June 24, 2010, 20:15

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