Pakistan should try `war criminals’ during Bangladesh war: Expert


Dhaka : Pakistan should try those responsible for the genocide that took place during Bangladesh’s freedom struggle in 1971, a Canadian lawyer has said while endorsing Dhaka’s move to try those it considers “war criminals”.

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Trying those responsible for the killings of unarmed civilians was necessary “to stop recurrence of genocide and end culture of impunity”, David Matas, who has dealt with Rwanda genocide and Nazi war criminals, told The Daily Star newspaper.

“Bangladesh can request Pakistan to send the accused to Bangladesh for trial but probably that will not happen. So, Pakistan itself should prosecute those involved in genocide,” he said.

The estimates of civilians killed during the freedom movement in then East Pakistan varies between 300,000 and three million. Pakistan has itself admitted to 26,000 being killed during the nine months of the struggle.

Some of the killings were carried out by the Pakistani security forces, including the police and the paramilitary. But much of the killing was done by the Islamist militia, called Razakars, who formed different groups like Al Shams and Al Badr.

They targeted those sympathetic to the freedom movement and religious minorities and were accused of raping 200,000 women.

Matas was here to attend the Second International Conference on genocide, truth and justice July 30-31.

He welcomed Bangladesh’s effort at trying its citizens accused of these “war crimes” and lauded amendments to the International Crimes Tribunals Act, 1973.

Matas said the principle of the law was “very good but the rules of the law must be more specific”.

On the act’s jurisdiction to try only the perpetrators within the territory of Bangladesh, he said Bangladesh could try the Pakistani perpetrators only if they showed up here.

“But, that is not likely. So, Pakistan should bring the war criminals living in its land to justice. It is Pakistan’s responsibility,” said Matas, representative of the International Commission of Jurists.

Dhaka has secured support of the UN, which has nominated a three member panel. It has also sought help from the US and Britain, which were closely involved in the diplomatic moves during 1971 and Germany that has past experience of trying World War II accused.

Dhaka hopes to begin the trial process next month, its Law Minister Shafique Ahmed has said.

The accused include many former members of the militia and top leaders of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-islami, the country’s largest Islamist party.