A welcome judgement
IT IS indeed heartening that the special tribunal for trial of those who committed crimes against humanity during our war of liberation delivered its first verdict on Monday. While the legal standard of the tribunal and the transparency of the trial process may continue to remain a matter of debate, both at home and abroad, it is very important to bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice. If there is any injustice inflicted on the accused, former Jamaat-e-Islami activist Abul Kalam Azad in the present case, by the tribunal, he is free to seek redress in the appellate court.
However, while the government of the Awami League appears to be out to take political credit from trying an accused perpetrator of war crimes, it remains liable to answering a couple of serious questions. First, how did Azad leave the country, and thus apparently escape punishment, during the process of investigation against him, particularly when the conscious sections of society expressed such apprehension beforehand, and the government assured society that he was very much under the vigilance of the intelligence agencies concerned? Second, why was Azad tried first when more top-level Jamaat leaders than one are accused of actively collaborating with the then Pakistani military junta in committing genocide in Bangladesh? While negligence of duty by the government’s intelligence agencies is the prime reason that enabled Azad to flee, many believe that Azad was chosen first as a political tactic of the government to mount pressure on Jamaat, still a political ally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, to side, directly or indirectly, with the ruling party in the ensuing general elections. The Awami League, after all, did not suffer any moral pricking in forging ‘tactical’ alliance with Jamaat while agitating for elections under ‘caretaker government’ against the BNP administration in the early 1990s. Under this circumstance, it is imperative for the government to take the errant intelligence men to task on the one hand and for the governing party to dispel the speculation that commitment to justice, not parochial partisan interest, is the guiding principle behind the trial on the other.
Meanwhile, by way of keeping silent over the first verdict, when most quarters have hailed it, the BNP has once again displayed its political opportunism as regards the trial of those perpetrating crimes against humanity during the country’s Liberation War.
However, one of the most important observations that the Tribunal has made in the judgment is that the ‘tripartite agreement’ signed between the governments of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in 1974 that provided ‘immunity’ to the 195 Pakistani war criminals who committed ‘offences’ in Bangladesh ‘in breach of customary international law’ was ‘derogatory’ to the one enacted in 1973 to ‘prosecute those offences‘ committed by both the Pakistani army and their Bangladeshi auxiliary forces. The observation that erstwhile government of Awami League conceded to an agreement derogatory to a national law seeking justice to the victims of genocide obligates the incumbents to explore fresh legal and diplomatic avenues to try the Pakistani criminals as well.
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