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Bangladesh Islamist party's role in war crimes under probe
Publication Date : 19-08-2013
The formal investigation into Jamaat-e-Islami’s alleged war crimes began yesterday in what could be the first step towards the trial of the party that opposed the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.
“The allegations against Jamaat-e-Islami were put into the complaint register of the investigation agency today [Sunday] and the probe was launched,” Abdul Hannan Khan, chief of the war crimes investigation agency, told The Daily Star yesterday.
“We have appointed Matiur Rahman as the investigation officer for the case today [Sunday],” he said.
Hannan said, “It may take one and a half months or two to complete the investigation … collecting and analysing documents will be the focus of the probe.”
The activities of Razakars, Al-Badr, Al-Shams and Peace Committee — auxiliary forces of the Pakistani army — would also come under investigation as these forces were formed following the political decision of Jamaat, Hannan added.
On completion of the probe, the agency would submit its report to the prosecution team and the prosecution, after scrutinising the report, could submit formal charges against the party before the tribunal.
Just-appointed Investigator Matiur Rahman told The Daily Star that his probe would start from the very birth of Jamaat to its present activities, not to mention its role in 1971.
Matiur Rahman was also the investigation officer in the case against Jamaat ameer in 1971 Ghulam Azam, who has been convicted of crimes against humanity and is considered the symbol of war crimes committed during the nine-month-long Liberation War.
Established by highly controversial Abul Ala Moududi in 1941, Jamaat got banned twice, in 1959 and 1964, for its communal role. It got banned again just after independence in 1971 but it was allowed to resume politics during the regime of late president Ziaur Rahman.
The two international crimes tribunals, set up to deal with war-time offences, through several verdicts put the spotlight on Jamaat-e-Islami’s role in 1971.
The Tribunal-1 in the verdict against Ghulam Azam observed, “ … Jamaat-e-Islami, as a political party under the leadership of accused Prof Ghulam Azam, intentionally functioned as a criminal organisation especially during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971”.
It added, “There is no proof before the nation that those who played an anti-liberation role in 1971 have ever changed their attitude towards liberation war by expressing repentance or by showing respect to the departed souls of 3 million martyrs.”
The Tribunal-2 in the verdict against condemned Jamaat leader Muhammad Kamaruzzaman observed, “Jamaat-e-Islami had played a substantial role in the formation of the Al-Badar [Al-Badr], Razakar, Al-Shams and peace committees [during the war].
“The Jamaat had indulged in indiscriminate massacre of their political opponents belonging to the Bangalee nation in the name of liquidating ‘miscreants’ and ‘infiltrators’ for which it had used Razakars and Al-Badar,” it observed.
Justice seekers and war-crimes victims and their family members have long been demanding the trial of Jamaat-e-Islami as a party.
Their demand received fresh vigour after February 5 when youths occupied Shahbagh intersection in the capital demanding highest punishment for war criminals, and a ban on Jamaat and pro-Jamaat student body Islami Chhatra Shibir.
Against this backdrop, parliament on February 17 amended the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, allowing the state to appeal against inadequate sentencing of a convict and paving the way to hold trials of organisations for their criminal activities during the Liberation War.
Shahriar Kabir, executive president of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, yesterday hoped the investigation agency would finish quickly. He, however, expressed unhappiness as the probe started six months after the amendment, and not sooner.
The trial of any party or organisation for crimes against humanity, genocide and other war crimes is not unprecedented. At the historic Nuremberg Tribunal in Germany, formed for trying Nazi war criminals of World War II, trials of seven Nazi organisations were held, including the Reich Cabinet, the Schutzstaffel (SS), and the Gestapo.
The Supreme Court in a recent verdict declared Jamaat’s registration with the Election Commission illegal, rendering it unfit to take part in parliamentary elections.