Bangladesh sets up war crimes court

Bangladesh has set up a special tribunal to try people accused of committing war crimes during the country’s 1971 battle for independence from Pakistan.

The government named three High Court judges to the tribunal to conduct the long-delayed trials of people accused of murder, torture, rape and arson, Shafique Ahmed, the law minister, said on Thursday.

Officials also appointed a panel of retired civil, police and military officials to prosecute suspects who sided with Pakistan during the war, he said.

“The tribunal will hold trials of those suspected of committing crimes against humanity and genocide,” he told the AFP news agency, though he did not specify when the trials would begin.

“Only the Bangladeshis who formed auxiliary forces to aid the Pakistani army and committed crimes against humanity will be put on trial.”

Bloody campaign

A statement from the law ministry said the tribunal will conduct the trials under a 1973 act outlining prosecution and punishment for people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law.

If found guilty, some of those tried could face the death penalty.

Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, won independence from Pakistan in December 1971 following a nine-month war, which also saw India getting involved that hastened the surrender of Pakistaini troops.

The independence campaign was led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founding leader.

Rahman, the father of the current prime minister Sheikh Hasina, had planned to put the alleged war criminals on trial before his assassination in a coup in 1975.

Bangladesh’s official figures say Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed an estimated three million people, raped about 200,000 women and forced millions more to flee their homes during the war.

However, no one has yet been convicted for the atrocities and a combination of international manipulation and domestic politics has been blamed for the judicial inaction.

A private group that has investigated the conflict has identified more than 1,600 people, including Pakistani generals, as complicit in the atrocities.

But Bangladeshi authorities said Pakistani generals and army officers would not be tried by the tribunal.

[original]

spotted by RS

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