Dhaka seeks evidence from int’l community

July 31, 2009

War Crime Trial
Dhaka seeks evidence from int’l community
The government yesterday sought cooperation from the international community to provide evidence of genocide during the Liberation War in 1971 to help maintain international standard in trying war criminals.
Stating that the government is proceeding to try the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said, “What is needed now is the support from the international community.”
Addressing as the chief guest at the inaugural of Second International Conference on Genocide, Truth and Justice” at Cirdap auditorium in the city, the minister said the government will try those who committed the crimes and will, in no way, harass anyone for their political views.
Representatives from the International Criminal Court, international legal prosecutors involved in war crimes tribunals, International Council of Jurists, and academics from Hong Kong, Korea, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, Canada, Cambodia, the UK and local experts are attending the event organised by Liberation War Museum.
Shafique said the government came to power with peoples’ mandate to try the war criminals and accordingly took resolution in the first parliament session and amended the International Crime Tribunal Act 1973 following some objections from the international community. The government even allocated fund for the purpose.
The law provides full protection for the witnesses and it will also have scope for the accused to appeal, he said.
“We want the trial process to be totally transparent and fair so that none can question it,” the minister told the audience. The place of trial will also be fully secured, he noted.
“I assure you categorically that we won’t try anyone for political reasons,” Shafique said, adding: “We will try only those who helped the Pakistani occupation forces to pick up people for murder, rape and torture.”
The minister said, “There has been some protests from Pakistan about the trial but it is not a matter or worry as we will bring to justice only the criminals living in the territory of Bangladesh.”
The government will soon form the investigation and prosecution agency and the tribunal to accomplice the huge task.
The minister said the government immediately after the independence of the country initiated the trial but after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the governments in 1979, 1982 and 1991 did not take any steps to prosecute the perpetrators.
Later, in the plenary session international human rights lawyer David Matas said the trial needed to be conducted without undue delay.
“This is a fundamental right of the accused. It is unfair on both the accused and victims when a trial starts but it remains unfinished,” he said.
International human rights lawyers and academics said it is also the responsibility of the international community to help Bangladesh to try the perpetrators of genocide.
The conference, which is a platform of sharing experiences of war crimes trials in different countries, will enrich Bangladesh’s experience and help try the criminals in a more acceptable manner, said Hong Kong University Professor Dr Suzannah Linton.
European Union Parliament Member Helmut Scholz said he would raise the issue of war criminal trial of Bangladesh in the general assembly of the next EU parliament.
Chittagong University Prof ABM Abu Noman and Liberation War Museum Trustees Modidul Haque and Akku Chowdhury also spoke.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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