Hasina seeks UN help in trial of 1971 war criminals

January 2nd, 2009 - 11:28 am ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 2 (IANS) Bangladesh poll victor Sheikh Hasina has sought the United Nations’ help in the trial of “war criminals” - those who collaborated with authorities in the erstwhile East Pakistan in killing numerous unarmed civilians during Bangladesh’s freedom movement in 1971. Raising afresh the issue that has figured prominently in the public discourse and in the run-up to the ninth general election, Hasina told UN Special Envoy Ian Martin they should be tried under international laws, the New Age newspaper reported Friday.

“She said to the UN’s special envoy that she would be happy if the UN extended cooperation in future for the trial of war criminals under international laws and the UN envoy assured her of assisting in this regard,” Awami League’s advisory council member Mohammad Zamir told reporters after Martin met Hasina at her home.

Zamir, also a former ambassador, said the UN special envoy also assured Hasina of extending cooperation for governance, capacity building and other issues.

Martin’s visit followed a message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Martin, a former Amnesty International secretary general, said: “It is my privilege to congratulate Sheikh Hasina and the people of Bangladesh on this democratic occasion. I am simply here as an old friend of Bangladesh.”

The Dec 29 poll witnessed the defeat of the Islamists, especially the Jamaat-e-Islami, whose top office-bearers also top the list of war criminals prepared by former freedom fighters and NGOs who have researched their past records.

The Jamaat had 18 members, including two ministers, in the eighth parliament, but only two nominees got elected to the ninth house.

The trial of war criminals is a sensitive issue in Bangladesh. The outgoing caretaker government initially took a stand against them. But it baulked for lack of popular mandate, especially after the international community urged an all-in poll that would be free and fair.

The Election Commission allowed the Islamists to contest the poll. However, they lost along with their senior ally, Begum Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

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