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UK to help B`desh in 1971 war crimes trial: Report

Last Updated: Friday, August 7, 2009 - 15:53

Dhaka: Britain will share crucial records with Bangladesh to facilitate the controversial trial of the 1971 "war criminals", as Pakistan was asked to prosecute those involved in the "genocide" by its Army during Bangladesh`s "Liberation war".
As Bangladesh moves ahead to kick start the trial of those accused of collaborating with the Pakistan Army during the 1971 "War of independence", sources in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the Labour government was willing to share its old records and provide legal assistance.

The UK government has put utmost emphasis on holding the trial in a fair and neutral manner, sources underlined.

"We fully understand the desire of the government and many Bangladeshis to hold to account those who may have been guilty of war crimes during the war of independence," Towheed Feroze, senior press officer, British High Commission in Dhaka, was quoted as saying by The Daily Star newspaper today.

"The British government understands that this is an emotive and sensitive issue and that there is a demand among a large number of people to see war crime related trials become reality," the press official added.

Meanwhile, eminent Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas, who dealt with cases of the Rwanda genocide and Nazi war criminals, asked Pakistan to prosecute those involved in the "genocide".

"Bangladesh can request Pakistan to send the accused to Bangladesh for trial but probably that will not happen. So, Pakistan itself should prosecute those involved in genocide," Matas was quoted as saying by the daily.

Matas, the representative of the International Commission of Jurists, said, "Pakistan should bring the war criminals living in its land to justice".

"It is Pakistan`s responsibility," he underlined.

According to the report, the British government had suggested that Bangladesh take UN assistance in investigating and prosecuting crimes against humanity and other serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed in 1971 to avert any criticism.

The ruling Awami League, which has vowed to punish the criminals during the `independence war`, has demanded an apology from Pakistan for the killing of three million Bangladeshis and rape of lakhs of women by its Army during the bloody nine-month war.

Bangladesh on May 15 demanded that Pakistan apologise for the "genocide", a day after a foreign ministry official in Islamabad asked Dhaka to "let bygones be bygones".

Last month, Pakistan had cautioned Bangladesh that efforts to push ahead with the controversial trial would cast a shadow on bilateral ties.

Jamaat-e-Islami, a crucial ally of 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. The Islamist party`s description of the event as a "civil war" has intensified public outrage in the country.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, August 7, 2009 - 15:53
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