Bangladesh wants to try Pakistani soldiers for 1971 war crimes

April 8th, 2009 - 1:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Dhaka, April 8 (IANS) Bangladesh wants to try Pakistani military personnel for war crimes during the 1971 freedom movement.
The process for holding the war crime trials formally began Wednesday.

Dhaka has got the assistance of four UN experts and is moving as per a resolution passed by parliament in February. A high level probe body is expected to be named.

“We will take the matter to the International Criminal Court and seek the trial of the members of the Pakistani occupation forces who committed crimes against humanity,” State Minister for Liberation War Affairs A.B. Tajul Islam told New Age newspaper Tuesday.

The perpetrators of the atrocities belonging to the Pakistani forces are not in Bangladesh now so the country needs to seek international assistance to bring them to justice, the minister said.

“We will request the world body now to bring them to justice as many of them are beyond any doubt guilty of crimes against humanity,” said the minister who is himself a war veteran.

Those who collaborated with the Pakistan government during the freedom struggle are also referred to as “war criminals” in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s liberation was facilitated by neighbouring India and the forces fought under the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Command.

More than 80,000 officers and soldiers of the Pakistani army, the paramilitary and police forces and 13,000 civilians were repatriated from Bangladesh after their surrender to the joint command led by the Indian Army.

The process for their prosecution was never initiated. As a gesture of goodwill, India unilaterally decided not to try the prisoners of war for war crimes and released them in accordance with the July 3, 1972 Simla agreement between Pakistan and India.

Bangladesh, however, was not a party to the agreement, the newspaper noted.

The process of holding the trial has gained momentum after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her allies swept the polls held last December. The premier father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led the freedom struggle.

Dhaka is approaching Pakistan which has conveyed through a special envoy of President Asif Ali Zardari that “time is not ripe” for holding such a trial and that bilateral relations could be damaged.

Dhaka has also decided to approach the US, whose Richard Nixon administration sided with Islamabad and opposed what it considered Pakistan’s ‘dismemberment’.

According to historians, some three million people were killed during Bangladesh’s freedom struggle against Pakistani forces in 1971.

Around 200,000 women were raped and tens of thousands of homes were torched by the Pakistani army and its local collaborators.

Some of the alleged local collaborators now head the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party. They have been stopped from leaving the country pending the completion of the trial.

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