Dhaka to seek evidence from Pakistan, US on 1971 `war crimes’

April 7th, 2009 - 1:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Dhaka, April 7 (IANS) The UN has named four international war crime experts to assist Bangladesh in the trial of 1971 “war criminals” as the government said it would formally seek evidence from Pakistan and the US on the matter.
Those who collaborated with the Pakistan government during the freedom struggle are referred to as “war criminals” in Bangladesh.

Dhaka wants information and evidence from the US, whose Richard Nixon administration supported Islamabad, to firm up cases against militiamen who are alleged to have killed thousands of unarmed civilians and engaged in rape, loot and arson.

The requests were being made under the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973, said government officials associated with the trial for which the process formally begins Thursday.

The move to conduct the trials has the sanction of parliament.

The political thrust for going ahead with the trial came after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s landslide victory in last December’s poll.

While the US has in principle approved the trial, a special envoy of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari cautioned Dhaka against it, saying “this is not the time” and that it would hurt bilateral ties.

“We are going to request all, including Pakistan and the US to provide documents and evidence relating to the genocide committed during the liberation war and about those who were involved in war crimes,” State Minister for Liberation War Affairs A.B.M. Tajul Islam told The Daily Star Monday.

He said although the evidence and documents Bangladesh has are enough to try the war criminals, more documents and evidence are required to make the trials acceptable worldwide.

The names of the four experts were sent Sunday by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Resident Coordinator Renata Lok Dessallien.

“This will help the government to learn from experiences elsewhere and to avoid possible costly mistakes,” the UNDP letter read.

“The Pakistani government will be asked to provide us with the names of those who had collaborated with the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971,” an official of the liberation war affairs ministry told The Daily Star.

“With the request letter, Bangladesh will provide some documents, including a 1971 official gazette of the erstwhile Pakistan that recognised the Razakars as an auxiliary force of the Pakistani occupying army,” he said.

There are a total of 1,779 war criminals, including 369 members of then Pakistan armed forces, according to an official document.

Some three million civilians were killed by the erstwhile Pakistani occupying forces and their collaborators during Bangladesh’s war of independence, while about 200,000 women were raped, and tens of thousands of homes were torched and plundered.

Bangladesh finally became an independent nation with the help of Indian troops who marched into Dhaka and secured the surrender of Pakistani 90,000 Pakistani soldiers.

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