UN offers assistance in Bangladesh war crimes trial

Last Updated: Thursday, April 1, 2010 - 18:47

Dhaka: The UN on Thursday offered technical
assistance to Bangladesh in conducting a trial into
allegations of war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War
against the Bengali-speaking perpetrators.

"UN is willing to provide technical assistance to the
Bangladesh government to ensure an internationally accepted
trial" of the perpetrators of crimes like massacres, rapes and
arson, UN Resident Coordinator in Dhaka Renata Lok Dessallien
told newsmen after a meeting with Law Minister Shafique Ahmed.
She said the UN would also consider sending observers to
witness the trial into allegations of "crimes against
humanity" as requested by Bangladesh and it expected the trial
to be conducted in line with the international standard.

Later talking to newsmen the law minister said measures
were taken to make the trial "transparent and internationally
acceptable" and "there should not be any doubt regarding the
standard of the trial".

"It would be a wrong proposition, if anyone thinks that
the trial is being held to harass anybody politically. None
would be brought to justice for political ideology," he said.

He said separate corners were earmarked for members of
the press and the observers inside the courtroom to witness
the trial as well as report it.

The government has refurbished the country`s old High
Court building to stage the trial under International Crimes
(Tribunal) Act 1973 that suggests the highest death penalty
and the lowest 10 years of imprisonment for the convicts.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s government earlier this
month constituted a three-member special court alongside a
special investigation agency and prosecution panel to carry
out the proceedings.

No official list of suspects has yet been released and
officials said the investigating agency would finalise the
list after a thorough enquiry byt the government has
instructed immigration authorities not allow the high-profile
"war criminals" leave the country.

Reports said intelligence agencies gathered evidence
against 25 high-profile "war criminals" mostly belonging to
fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a crucial ally of
ex-premier Khaleda Zia`s main opposition BNP.
They included JI chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, secretary
general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and BNP stalwart Salahuddin
Qader Chowdhury.

The Sector Commanders Forum, a grouping of 1971
Liberation War commanders and veterans earlier said they
collected documentary evidence against 50 high-profile "war
criminals".

JI and several other rightwing groups had sided with the
then Pakistani junta in 1971 and Nizami and Mujahid are
alleged to have led the so-called elite Al-Badr forces.

Mujahid yesterday declined the war crime charges at a
press briefing saying: "I am 62 now, and till this day I never
even slapped anyone". He said as a student during the
Liberation War: "I was engaged in educational and other
organisational activities".

The JI leader also claimed he was not able to recall the
total range of his activities during the Liberation War but
admitted acting "according to the ideals of Islami Chhatra
Sangha," the erstwhile student wing of JI.

Demands for the trial of the war criminals resurfaced two
years ago after Mujahid commented that the "anti-liberation
forces never existed" and his party called it a "civil war".

After the independence JI and other religion-based
parties were constitutionally banned in until 1976 but they
were allowed to resume activities after the August 15, 1975
military putsch in which Bangladesh`s founder Sheikh Mujibur
Rahman was killed.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 - 18:47

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