News / Asia

    Bangladesh War Criminal Sentenced to Death

    Members of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad, a welfare association for combatants who fought during the war for independence from Pakistan in 1971, shout slogans after a war crimes tribunal sentenced Abul Kalam Azad to death in Dhaka, January 21, 2013.
    Members of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad, a welfare association for combatants who fought during the war for independence from Pakistan in 1971, shout slogans after a war crimes tribunal sentenced Abul Kalam Azad to death in Dhaka, January 21, 2013.
    Gabrielle Paluch
    Bangladesh's controversial and scandal-ridden international war crimes court, the International Crimes Tribunal, handed down its first verdict this week, sentencing accused war criminal Abul Kalam Azad to death, in a trial held in absentia. The prosecution of alleged war criminals from Bangladesh’s 1971 war that resulted in the country’s independence.
     
    The International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Abul Kalam Azad to death by hanging for genocide, murder, rape and other crimes committed more than 40 years ago during the war against Pakistan.  
     
    In hiding

    The trial was held in absentia because Azad, a popular Islamic televangelist, has been missing for about a year, since his charges were filed. Azad is believed to have fled the country.
     
    While the country’s ruling party, the Awami League, has praised the verdict, critics say the commission has been politically motivated since it was created in 2010.
     
    Azad's lawyer, Tajul Islam, who is defending nine accused war criminals, plans to appeal the verdict.  He says the verdict was handed down on unchallenged evidence, and included unwanted comments against Azad’s Jamaat-e-Islami party. He accused the court of ignoring evidence presented by the defense, and called for a new trial.
     
    "We have based so many arguments on law and facts that have been totally ignored in this judgment. This collusion of the chairman with the prosecutors and the witnesses, discredits the entire trial process," said Islam. "So, we think that the only option that remains is to hold the trial afresh."   
     
    Condemnation

    International rights groups have condemned the trial for not adhering to international standards.
     
    The Economist magazine recently obtained access to Skype conversations and email exchanges that indicate the court’s chief justice may have been leaking confidential information. Chief Justice Mohammed Nizamul Huq has since resigned.
     
    Human Rights Watch's South Asia Analyst Tejshree Thapa says the email correspondences revealed by The Economist completely undermine the court’s independence.
     
    Sam Zarifi, the Asia director for the International Commission of Jurists, says the court process has been so flawed, it raises the question of whether it might be best not to have a trial at all.
     
    “Proving these charges, charges of crime against humanity, charges of rape as a war crime, charges of genocide, are actually quite complicated and need a lot of evidence and we didn't see those kinds of procedural safeguards at all," explained Zarifi. "This verdict actually doesn't really advance the cause of justice.”
     
    He says the court has little hope of helping Bangladesh find reconciliation from the 1971 war, during which some three million people were killed.
     
    Opposition sidelined

    Despite the international criticism, the trial has been wildly popular among the general population in Bangladesh.
     
    It was a key issue in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s platform. But critics say it has resulted in the marginalization of the political opposition, with leaders detained, driven into exile, or sued.
     
    Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, became an independent nation after the Liberation war of 1971. The nine-month war started when West Pakistan launched a military operation aimed at deterring the East from declaring independence. Previous attempts to prosecute those responsible for atrocities were thwarted, and many of the accused have fled abroad.
     
    Shahriyar Kabir runs a group that has been lobbying for the war crimes tribunal and helps survivors cope with grief. He says the court's verdict has been so popular because everyone in Bangladesh was affected by the 1971 war.
     
    "The Bangladesh genocide was ignored by the West, but it was a horrific genocide. Three million people were killed in the period of nine months. Those who committed genocide in 1971, the Islamist bigots, the collaborators of the Pakistani army, they were Jamaat-e-Islami Muslim leaders, they became very powerful in Bangladesh right now,” stated Kabir.

    Delivering the verdict this week, Judge Obaidul Hasan said the impunity enjoyed by war criminals has “held back political stability.” There are 11 top opposition leaders accused of war crimes by the court. Nine are from the opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami and the other two from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: morsalin mizan from: dhaka, bangladesh
    January 24, 2013 6:27 AM
    my father ws a freedom fighter.den i wana say- shame, voa! shame!! ur reporter hs given us lot of wrong information.u dont knw d history of bangladesh.u should know first.den make ur report.

    by: MUJIB RAHMAN from: U S A
    January 23, 2013 2:15 PM
    PRESENT GOV. OF BANGLADESH (AL) IS PUPPET gov. of India.They judicially killing Islam lover leaders in Bangladesh.War crime tribunal of B D politically motivated.

    by: prasad from: hyderabad
    January 23, 2013 12:35 PM
    If any body read the history or if they have faced the atrocities during the Bangla Independence they will know the pain.Saying some thing stupidity is very easy.Will they bring back the lives which are lost in that time? Will they bring back their sisters and brothers? guilty should be punished...they already enjoyed 40 years...it is too late..

    by: imad din from: u.s
    January 23, 2013 12:16 PM
    It is just a lie historian teaching us. India break the the bigger country in 2 pieces and secure its back in case fight with Pakistan so east pakistan will not help them. And look at the stupid muslims are happy to break tie with muslims and very happy to be tied with hindus instead. Astaghfirullah. they forget that they have to die one day and have to face their Allah what they will say there.

    by: shamim samad from: dhaka
    January 23, 2013 9:28 AM
    I am sorry to say that I have read & gone thoroughly of above articles & & I feel pain that most popular news media, human right group, journalist commented on our glories 1971 liberation
    war.
    Did anybody of you lost your father, mother, brother, sister murdered brutally, did you see your sister, mother wife was raped in front of you by those brutial al-badr, razzakr & their leader was abul kalamm golama azam, mujahid etc.
    Only he can realize the pain whom the snake has bitted not other people.

    Still now if any 2nd world war Nazi war prison is found he been brought to justice and we the Bangladeshi people also want to see that those war criminal must be brought under justice and be punished what crime they have done on glorious 1971. I am requesting you all to read & watch video of the then World press regarding Bangladesh liberation war.



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