Sukhranjan puts incumbents in the spot
NEW Age stands vindicated by the Kolkata-based daily Telegraph’s report that Sukhranjan Bali, a war crimes witness who, we reported on May 16, was abducted from the International Crimes Tribunal premises on November 5, 2012 allegedly by local law enforcers, illegally detained for about six weeks and then smuggled to India near the end of December, on Friday pleaded with the Indian Supreme Court not to deport him to Bangladesh. As mentioned in New Age on Sunday, the Telegraph quotes Sukhranjan as having told the court that Sheikh Hasina’s government would eliminate him as he had turned hostile during the ongoing trial. It is worth noting here that on May 22, less than a week after New Age had run the report on the alleged abduction, the foreign minister said the Bangladesh mission in Kolkata could not ascertain whether Sukhranjan was among the 130 Bangladeshis detained in Kolkata jail. The Telegraph report certainly establishes that the Awami League-led government may not have told the whole truth.
Such vindication leaves us rather sad though because it once again accentuates some unpleasant questions about the war crimes trial that seem to be increasingly gaining traction in society. We have written in these columns time and again that, although the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Bangladesh’s war of liberation in 1971 should have been probed, prosecuted and punished a long time back, the AL-led government deserves credit for getting the process under way. Moreover, we have maintained all along that the involvement of Jamaat-e-Islami and its top leaders in war crimes and crimes against humanity is historically proven. Yet, we have always insisted, as have conscious and conscientious sections of society, that the trial needs to be credible and transparent, and must meet the international standards, because we believe the trial is also a test for Bangladesh and its people to prove their commitment to the rule of law and justice.
Regrettably, however, almost from the start, the incumbents have sought to own the outcome of the trial as a partisan trophy of sort. Coupled with ineptitude and insincerity of most of the prosecutors, such partisan overkill has naturally raised questions about fairness of the trial and even independence of the tribunal itself. Moreover, questions have also been raised about the possibility of mistaken identity in case of at least two convicts — one of them has been sentenced to death and other to life imprisonment. Sukhranjan’s appeal to the Supreme Court in India against deportation to Bangladesh only lends credence to such questions and also allegations that the incumbents may be influencing, directly or indirectly, the trial and are willing to go any length to do so.
Suffice to say, the AL-led government has a lot of explaining to do to the people, primarily, and also to the international community, which has been closely following the proceedings of the war crimes trial. First of all, the government needs to come up with an unequivocal statement about the claims made by Sukhranjan and constitute an independent inquiry into allegations of foul play by a section of the law enforcers. Also, it needs to arrange for repatriation of Sukhranjan and maximum security for him upon his return. Most importantly, Sukhranjan must be allowed to speak to the media without fear or favour.
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