Bangladesh celebrates Victory Day, vows to try 1971 war criminals

December 16th, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 16 (DPA) Tens of thousands of people Tuesday thronged the National Mausoleum to pay tribute to Bangladesh’s liberation war heroes on the occasion of Victory Day, while activists called for the country’s war criminals of 1971 to be brought to justice.Celebrating the nation’s 38th Victory Day, the activists also urged voters to refrain from voting for war criminals, some of whom are running for national elections Dec 29.

The Bangladesh Sector Commander Forum - a group of war veterans lobbying the government to prosecute those who committed crimes against humanity during the war - claims 14 candidates are among over 11,000 war criminals identified by a fact-finding committee.

The 14 are mostly running for Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islam, a religion-based party that opposed independence and is now a major partner in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led electoral alliance.

Bangladeshi historians say at least three million people were killed and over 200,000 women were abused by West Pakistani forces and their local agents during the nine-month armed struggle that ended with West Pakistan troops’ surrender Dec 16, 1971.

Pakistan was created as a divided nation, with its eastern and western sectors separated by more than 1,500 km of Indian territory, at the time of independence from Britain in 1947.

The 1971 war between the two sides, then known as East Pakistan and West Pakistan, led to the formation of Bangladesh in the east.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, President Iajuddin Ahmed, former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, and liberation war veterans joined thousands of people to pay homage to the war victims.

This year’s celebration came only two weeks ahead of the general elections aimed at returning the country to democracy after almost two years of army-led emergency rule.

“Now it’s time to strengthen our democratic systems further through rendering them more effective. All we need today is every individual’s earnest cooperation, irrespective of cast or creed,” said President Ahmed.

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