Jan 28, 2009
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought UN assistance in prosecuting people accused of war crimes during the country’s liberation struggle in 1971. Citing it as a long-standing national demand, the government had pledged in its election manifesto to take all necessary legal steps to conduct the trial.
Dhaka, Bangladesh: Bangladesh's government said on Tuesday that it was pressing ahead with plans to put on trial people accused of war crimes during the country's bloody liberation struggle in 1971.
Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed said that the United Nations had agreed to provide the government with assistance for the trial of hundreds of alleged war criminals.
"The government will try the war criminals as soon as possible as it was a key pledge in our election manifesto. We have to do it," he said.
"We could set up a special war crime tribunal according to the International Crimes Tribunals Act 1973."
Bangladesh's newly-elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who led her party to a landslide parliamentary election victory last month, has already said her government is "pledge-bound" to put war criminals on trial.
Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan after a nine-month liberation war in 1971. Three million people were killed during the struggle, according to the government.
Ahmed said "members of the auxiliary forces created by the Pakistan government to aid its army during the war and who are accused of crimes such as murder, looting, rapes, arson would be tried."
After the war, Bangladesh's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman arrested 37,000 people and tried some under a collaborators' act.
Most of those arrested were Islamists who did not want the country to separate from Islamic Pakistan to become secular Bangladesh.
But 11,000 people were later pardoned by Sheikh Mujib, who was eventually assassinated in a military coup. The remaining 26,000 were freed after a post-Mujib military government repealed the collaborators' act.
A private War Crimes Fact Finding Committee has recently unveiled a list of 1,597 people it alleges to be war criminals, including the top leaders of the country's largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami.
Law Minister Ahmed said he hoped the trials would be finished by the end of the government's tenure.