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Bangladesh: War Criminals and Denials

Categories: South Asia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Governance, History, Human Rights, Law, Politics, Religion, War & Conflict

During the Liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971 [1] most of the people of the nation supported the fight for independence from Pakistan except for a few groups being the fifth column. Jamaat-e-Islami is the oldest religious party in Pakistan and its Bangladesh chapter [2] collaborated with the Pakistan army to unsuccessfully prevent the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. Besides providing information of the pro-independence forces to the Pakistani army Jamaat also created many militia organizations such as Razakar, Al badr, Al shams in order to capture and eventually kill freedom fighters of Bangladesh. A large section of the intellectual community of Bangladesh was murdered [3] by Al Badr and Al Shams when they saw the defeat was coming. Jamaat was subsequently banned, then restored in 1978 as the progressive political parties in Bangladesh in power allowed them space and made them qualition partners eventually.

Recently Bangladeshis were outraged by the Jamaat-e-Islam’s leader Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid’s statement [4]that “Jamaat did not work against the Liberation War in 1971 [5] and there are no war criminals in the country” and former Islami Bank chairman and Jamaat-e-Islami think-tank Shah abdul Hannan's remark that the liberation war was only a “civil war” [6]. Drishtipat Blog has summarized [7] lots of denials, response, analysis, politics and fact files on this issue and a heated discussion took place in the comments section.

E-Bangladesh thinks this is an attempt to rewrite history and comments [8]:

this contradicts with the Jamaat leaders statement during the liberation war in 1971 [9], in which they sided with Pakistan and aided Pakistani army to kill and rape Bangladeshis which resulted in one of the worst genocides of the world [10].

demonsShadakalo did not try to hide emotions [11]:

I want to see these snakes tried for war crimes before they die of natural causes.

Tacit questions the intentions of Jamaat and comments [12]:

“With their announcement, Jamaat has in effect heralded politicking back into Bangladesh’s mainstream discourse.”

Lal Dorza reports that Jamaat leaders are vowing that no case has been brought [13] [bn] against the alleged war criminals so why should people call them criminals. In 1974 a general amnesty was declared for some of the war criminals.

However Eskimo reminds [14] [bn] that the amnesty was not a blanket one but limited to only those persons who did not have specific charges against them. The 3rd world view quotes [15] Dr. Hasan, convenor of War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, a group investigating war crimes by Pakistani army and their local collaborators in 1971, who calls Muzahid's statement a blatant lie:

“We have strong evidence and documents against the people who were involved in war crimes during the Liberation War and what is needed now to bring the culprits to justice is an initiative.”

In 1994, a national people's inquiry commission conducted a trial on eight war criminals of Bangladesh (including Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid) and presented a report in 1995 which can be found here [16]. The report concludes:

The Inquiry Commission after reviewing the offences of the accused and related laws came to a conclusion that these criminals can be tried under the International Crime (Tribunal) Act 1973. To make the sovereignty of Bangladesh safe and sound, to ensure peace, human rights and dignity these criminals (killers, collaborators and war criminals) must be brought to the justice. The commission strongly recommends trial of these offences.

However for unknown reasons the succeeding governments of Bangladesh failed to take any actions against them. Leading commentators also suggest [17]that it is high time to take actions against the war criminals. Because of lack of solid evidence after 36 years it would be appropriate to implement other measures like establishing a truth commission [18] to deal with these crimes.

Bloggers like Eskimo are demanding [19] [bn] that Jamaat should not have the right to be active in politics in Bangladesh. They are pointing out that its main agenda is to form a religious state which is in contradiction to the current state of democracy, judicary, constitution and social structure of the country. Some bloggers even put together [20] an website called “Ban Jamaat-e-Islami [21]” to propagate their protests.

Mash posts [22] some video footages and newspaper articles [23] on the 1971 genocide of Bangladesh. ShadaKalo posts some [24] images [25] of the genocide the Pakistani army and their collaborators committed against the Bangladeshis in 1971 and reiterates the words:

I will not forget. I will not let you forget.