Dhaka bars ‘war criminals’ from leaving country

January 31st, 2009 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 31 (IANS) The Bangladesh government has ordered the authorities at airports and at check-posts on the border with India to bar “war criminals”, who are alleged to have collaborated with the Pakistani regime during the 1971 freedom movement, from travelling abroad.The move came two days after parliament passed a unanimous resolution asking the government to take immediate measures to conduct trials for “war crimes”.

“All relevant information about the war criminals have already been sent to the agencies concerned asking them to guard all points so that the war criminals cannot flee the country,” Home Minister Sahara Khatun told reporters Friday.

The minister refused to give the list of the war criminals barred from leaving the country.

The New Age newspaper, however, quoted an unnamed high official of the home ministry as saying it was yet to prepare a list of the war criminals.

Immigration officials at the Zia International Airport in Dhaka and Benapole Land Port on the border with India’s West Bengal state told the New Age Friday that they had not yet received any such instructions.

The home ministry official said a general instruction was issued to the authorities concerned not to allow any suspected war criminals to leave the country. He added that no list was sent to the authorities.

Khandaker Delwar Hossain, secretary general of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), said his party would lend “moral support” to the trial, provided it was “done properly and is transparent”.

The principal targets of the trial are top leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the country’s largest Islamist party, which was defeated in last month’s election along with its ally BNP.

The JeI is deliberating on how to respond to the trial and is isolated from the BNP, The Daily Star said Saturday.

Immediately after independence, a list was prepared in 1972 with 37,000 war criminals and they were also sued.

The process of trial and conviction was, however, impeded by a general amnesty for the collaborators, declared by the then prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on Nov 30, 1973.

Under the general amnesty, about 26,000 of the 37,000 people held or convicted under the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order 1972 were released.

While the amnesty did not apply to those charged with murder, rape or arson, most of the collaborators, especially the bigwigs involved in abduction and other general collaboration charges, were released.

The order for the arrest of collaborators was finally revoked on Dec 31, 1975 and almost all those convicted or indicted were released in the early days of the regime of Ziaur Rahman.

The War Crimes Facts Finding Committee, a research organisation, on April 3, 2008, unveiled a list of 1,597 war criminals responsible for genocide, rape and other atrocities during the Liberation War.

Of those on the list, 369 are members of the Pakistani military, 1,150 are their local collaborators, including members of Razakar and Al Badr (forces formed to aid the occupation army) and Peace Committee, and 78 are Biharis, the non-Bengali migrants from India.

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