Bangladesh to Hold Trials For 1971 Atrocities

May 21, 2011

Asia, Bangladesh

BANGLADESH.–  The Bangladeshi government has begun an effort to bring to trial those responsible for atrocities during the struggle for independence in 1971.

Seven people have been arrested to date under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act. Five are members of the Jamaat-e-Islaamiya Party, a group against the establishment of an independent Bangladesh, and two from the main opposition Bangladesh National Party.

All who have applied for bail have been denied except an 82 year-old man.

The 1971 war followed the victory of the East-Pakistan-based Awami League in national elections. The Pakistani government refused to accept the results of the election. On 26 March, it began Operation Searchlight, sending troops into East Pakistan to arrest Awami League leaders and suppress protests.

 The Pakistani army engaged in widespread violence and even rape, between 300,000 and 3 million were killed and as many as 10 million were displaced or fled to nearby India. The Indian army inevitably intervened and joined resistance fighters to eventually defeat the Pakistani army. The independent state of Bangladesh was established the following December.

In 1972, the new government established special tribunals to try collaborators, and in 1973  the parliament passed the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act. However, trials failed to commenced due to political obstacles.

Justice for the 1971 crimes by trial continues to have considerable popular support and was one of the main platforms of the victorious Awami League election campaign in 2008.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch stated, “The attempt by the Bangladeshi government to create a domestic tribunal for such grave crimes could set a valuable international precedent.”

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