Hasina terms it a national demand
Parliament on Thursday night approved unanimously, in the absence of the opposition lawmakers, a resolution seeking speedy prosecution of the 1971 war criminals.
‘The resolution seeking trial of the war criminals has been approved unanimously,’ pronounced the speaker, Abdul Hamid, after the house voted ‘yes’ to the proposal moved by Mahmud us Samad Chowdhury, a ruling Awami League lawmaker for Sylhet 3 constituency.
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and a number of senior ruling party lawmakers termed the private members’ proposal very important saying that trial of the war criminals had become a national demand and that it was also an election pledge of the AL.
Lawmakers of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance remained absent from the house for the second consecutive day Thursday over a seating arrangement dispute.
The minister in charge of liberation war affairs, ABM Tajul Islam, however, requested Mahmud us Samad Chowdhury, who piloted the proposal, to withdraw it citing that the government had already initiated the process for trial of the war criminals.
But the house, attended by the lawmakers of the ruling Awami League and its allies Jatiya Party, Workers Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and an independent lawmaker, opposed the idea of withdrawing the proposal.
Rising to his feet, lawmaker Suranjit Sengupta said that the cabinet of prime minister Sheikh Hasina had already decided to try the war criminals.
When the process has already begun, it will be unnecessary to withdraw the proposal. ‘There is no legal problem in passing the resolution.’
Tofail Ahmed, a veteran parliamentarian of AL, said the people had voted Awami League to power to see the war criminals brought to justice. It has become a demand of all. ‘Since it is our election pledge, we should approve the proposal,’ he said requesting the prime minister to speak.
Sheikh Hasina then took the floor and extended her support to the proposal saying that she had ordered the ministries and persons concerned to begin the process to bring the war criminals to justice.
‘Trial of the war criminals has become a demand of the day.
We have had discussions with persons concerned. We are gathering evidence of how other countries have dealt with war criminals,’ the prime minister said adding that she collected names of a panel of international experts on war crime tribunals.
The foreign ministry has taken the initiative to this end.
‘Trial of the war criminals will take place on this soil,’ Hasina said amidst thumping on the desks by her deputies in the house.
Planning minister AK Khandaker and former home minister Rafiqul Islam and also took part in the supplementary discussion asking the house to approve the resolution to pave the way for fulfilling the people’s long-standing demand for trial of the war criminals.
AL lawmakers AKM Rahmat Ullah, Enamul Haq, KH Rashiduzzaman and Golam Dastagir Gazi and WP lawmakers Rashed Khan Menon and Fazle Hossain Badsha also took part in the discussion.
Earlier on Wednesday, the prime minister sought the United Nations’ assistance to try the war criminals of 1971.
During Bangladesh’s war of independence against Pakistani occupation forces in 1971, according to historians, three million people were killed, 2,00,000 women were violated and tens of thousands of homes were torched by Pakistani forces and their local collaborators.
An early initiative to prosecute the war crimes was called off after the 1975 political changeover with the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founding president.
Bangladesh Sector Commanders’ Forum, a platform of 1971 war veterans, revealed last year that 11,000 indicted war criminals were released from jail a few months after Mujib’s assassination.