Case Study of Bangladesh
Crime, although committed against a
person, is an offence against law and order of a State and that is why it
constitutes a crime against a State and State prosecutors (public prosecutors)
pursue a criminal case. War crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity are
offences against humankind because it denigrates human dignity. That is why
every country has an obligation under international law to try individuals who
allegedly perpetrated such crimes, irrespective of the fact whether such crimes
were committed in that State or not. Moreover, the trial of the war criminals
is a demand of humanity and human civilization. If injustice and war crimes are
allowed to go without fair and proper trials, there will remain question
regarding the continuity, integrity and humanist elements of human civilization
and its existence. The recent upsurge, however, poses more questions than
answers. Bangladesh earned its long-cherished independence following a
nine-month battle with West Pakistan . The mainstream discourse on this battle
is very long on narratives, but short on facts. The narratives are so deeply
rooted and embedded in the mainstream political and social discourse that
search for facts is sometimes regarded as a crime. Many facts on the battle
therefore remain as fictions. One of the conspicuous fictions is “war
of war crimes
Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as:
“Willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including… willfully causing
great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or
transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected
person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, or willfully depriving a
protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, …taking of hostages
and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by
military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”At the heart of the
concept of war crimes is the idea that an individual can be held responsible
for the actions of a country or that nation’s soldiers. Genocide, crimes
against humanity, mistreatment of civilians or combatants during war can all
fall under the category of war crimes. Genocide is the most severe of these
The body of laws that define a war crime are the Geneva
Conventions and the statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal in The
of war crimes trial through out the world
War Crimes Trials, trials of persons charged with criminal
violation of the laws and customs of war and related principles of
The first war crimes trials in modern times were held after World
War II (1939-1945) by the victorious Allied nations to prosecute German and
Japanese war criminals. In 1993 and 1994 the United Nations (UN) established
war crimes tribunals to prosecute those who committed crimes during the civil
wars in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. In 2002 the UN and the government
of Sierra Leone established a jointly administered war crimes tribunal to
prosecute atrocities committed during Sierra Leone’s civil war. A similar court
has been proposed to prosecute war crimes committed in Cambodia during the
In July 1998 UN delegates approved a statute creating a permanent
International Criminal Court (ICC) to try people accused of genocide
(systematic extermination of a group), war crimes, crimes against humanity, and
crimes of aggression. The ICC was designed to replace ad hoc tribunals of
limited jurisdiction, such as those created to address the conflicts in the
former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. The ICC, with headquarters in The Hague, The
Netherlands, officially came into being on July 1, 2002.
The most important war crimes trials following World War II were
held in Nürnberg, Germany, under the authority of two legal instruments. One,
the so-called London Agreement, was signed by representatives of the United
States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
(USSR) in London on August 8, 1945; the other, Law No. 10, was issued by the
Allied Control Council in Berlin on December 20, 1945.
The London Agreement provided for the establishment of the International
Military Tribunal, composed of one judge and one alternate judge from each of
the signatory nations, to try war criminals. Under the London Agreement, the
crimes charged against defendants fell into three general categories:
(1) Crimes against peace—that is, crimes involving the planning,
initiating, and waging of aggressive war;
(2) war crimes—that is, violations of the laws and customs of war
as embodied in the conventions adopted at the Hague Conferences (international
peace conferences of 1899 and 1904); and
(3) Crimes against humanity, such as the extermination of racial,
ethnic, and religious groups and other large-scale atrocities against
On October 18, 1945, the chief prosecutors lodged an indictment
with the tribunal charging 24 individuals with a variety of crimes and
atrocities, including the deliberate instigation of aggressive wars,
extermination of racial and religious groups, murder and mistreatment of
prisoners of war, and the murder, mistreatment, and deportation to slave labor
of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of countries occupied by Germany during
Among the accused were Nationalist Socialist leaders Hermann
Göring and Rudolf Hess, diplomat Joachim von Ribbentrop, munitions maker Gustav
Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Grand Admiral Erich
Raeder, and 18 other military leaders and civilian officials. Seven
organizations that formed part of the basic structure of the Nazi government
were also charged as criminal. These organizations included the (Schutzstaffel,
German for “Defense Corps”), the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, “Secret State
Police”), the SA (Sturmabteilung, “Storm Troops”), and the General Staff and
High Command of the German armed forces.
The trial began on November 20, 1945. Much of the evidence
submitted by the prosecution consisted of original military, diplomatic, and
other government documents that fell into the hands of the Allied forces after
the collapse of the German government.
Conclusion of the First Trial
The judgment of the International Military Tribunal was handed
down on September 30-October 1, 1946. Among notable features of the decision
was the conclusion, in accordance with the London Agreement, that to plan or
instigate an aggressive war is a crime under the principles of international
law. The tribunal rejected the contention of the defense that such acts had not
previously been defined as crimes under international law and that therefore
the condemnation of the defendants would violate the principle of justice
prohibiting ex post facto punishments. It also rejected the contention of a
number of the defendants that they were not legally responsible for their acts
because they performed the acts under the orders of superior authority.
According to the tribunal, “the true test … is not the existence of the order
but whether moral choice (in executing it) was in fact possible.”
With respect to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the
tribunal found overwhelming evidence of a systematic rule of violence,
brutality, and terrorism by the German government in the territories occupied
by its forces. Millions of persons were destroyed in concentration camps, many
of which were equipped with gas chambers for the extermination of Jews, Roma
(Gypsies), and members of other ethnic or religious groups. Under the
slave-labor policy of the German government, at least 5 million persons had
been forcibly deported from their homes to Germany. Many of them died because
of inhuman treatment. The tribunal also found that atrocities had been
committed on a large scale and as a matter of official policy.
Of the seven indicted organizations, the tribunal declared
criminal the Leadership Corps of the National Socialist Party, the SS, the SD
(Sicherheitsdienst, German for “Security Service”), and the Gestapo.
Twelve defendants were sentenced to death by hanging, seven
received prison terms ranging from ten years to life, and three, including the
German politician and diplomat Franz von Papen and the president of the German
Central Bank Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, were acquitted. Those who had been
condemned to death were executed on October 16, 1946. Göring committed suicide
in prison a few hours before he was to be executed.
After the conclusion of the first Nürnberg trial, 12 more trials
were held under the authority of Control Council Law No. 10, which closely
resembled the London Agreement but provided for war crimes trials in each of
the four zones of occupied Germany.
About 185 individuals were indicted in the 12 cases. Those
indicted included doctors who had conducted medical experiments on
concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war, judges who had committed
murder and other crimes under the guise of the judicial process, and
industrialists who had participated in the looting of occupied countries and in
the forced-labor program. Other persons indicted included SS officials who had
headed the concentration camps, administered the Nazi racial laws, and carried
out the extermination of Jews and other groups in the eastern territories
overrun by the German army; and high military and civilian officials who bore
responsibility for these and other criminal acts and policies of the Third
Reich. A number of doctors and SS leaders were condemned to death by hanging,
and approximately 120 other defendants were given prison sentences of various
durations. The tribunals acquitted 35 defendants.
Another war crimes trial was held under international authority in
Tokyo. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East was constituted
under the authority of a charter promulgated on January 19, 1946, by General
Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander for the Allied Powers. Many provisions of
the charter were adapted from those of the London Agreement.
The Tokyo trial opened on May 3, 1946, and held its final session
on November 12, 1948. The conclusions reached by the 11-nation tribunal were
generally parallel to those embodied in the judgment given in Nürnberg. Of the
28 defendants named in the indictment, seven were condemned to death by
hanging, and all but two of the others were sentenced to life imprisonment. The
trial of Japanese general Yamashita Tomoyuki was important in establishing the
principle of “command responsibility”—the duty of a military or civilian
commander to prevent military personnel from committing war crimes and crimes
against humanity. This principle resurfaced more than 50 years later in the
trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Miloševi?.
Many other trials of alleged war criminals were held by tribunals
constituted by the governments of the countries that had been occupied in whole
or in part by Germany or Japan during World War II. In addition, military
tribunals in the British and American zones of occupation in Germany tried
Germans under the laws of war. Numerous trials of Japanese military officers
were held also in the Philippines and Australia and by American military courts
on Japanese territory. For the most part, these trials were based on alleged
violations of the laws and customs of war, and did not involve the crimes
against peace and crimes against humanity that had constituted an important
part of the Nürnberg proceedings.
Alleged World War II criminals were brought to trial under
national laws long after the end of the war. In 1960 the Nazi official Adolf
Eichmann, who had been a member of the German SS and an organizer of
anti-Semitic activities, was captured as a war criminal in Argentina by Israeli
agents (see Anti-Semitism). Taken to Jerusalem, he was tried and condemned the
following year and executed in 1962. In 1987 a French court convicted Klaus
Barbie, a notorious German Gestapo officer, of crimes against humanity and
sentenced him to life imprisonment. Other trials of French collaborators with
Nazi Germany followed in the 1990s. In 1999 Polish-born former police officer
Anthony Sawoniuk was convicted under the British War Crimes Act of 1991 of
murdering Jews in Nazi-occupied Domachëvo, now in Belarus, during World War II.
Sawoniuk was sentenced to life in prison.
The United Nations established the International Criminal Tribunal
for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in May 1993 to prosecute individuals
responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed in
the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Originally set up to prosecute crimes
resulting from the wars of Yugoslav succession (1991-1995), the tribunal also
has addressed crimes occurring in the late 1990s as the result of a separatist
movement in Kosovo, a province in southwestern Serbia. The tribunal convenes at
The Hague, Netherlands. It consists of 14 judges from different nations and has
the power to impose a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
War in the former Yugoslavia began in July 1991 after Slovenia and
Croatia—two of six republics in the country—declared their independence. Other
republics followed, touching off a conflict that lasted for more than four
years. During the war, between 100,000 and 250,000 people were killed and an
estimated 200,000 were wounded. Evidence surfaced that many were the victims of
ethnic cleansing—efforts to remove all members of a particular ethnic group
from territories occupied by other ethnic groups. Thousands of people were found
in mass graves near Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina;
Vukovar, a city in eastern Croatia; Prijedor, a city in northwestern Bosnia and
Herzegovina; and Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There was
also evidence of rape and other atrocities.
The separatist movement in Kosovo began in 1991 when ethnic
Albanians, who made up more than 90 percent of the province’s population,
started to agitate for secession from Serbia. In 1992 Serbia and Montenegro
proclaimed themselves the successor state to the former Yugoslavia and took the
name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). In 1996 a militant separatist group
known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began attacks on Serbian police
forces in an attempt to gain independence. In early 1998 the Serbs, with the
help of FRY army units, began a major crackdown on the separatists. In March
1999, after settlement negotiations proved unsuccessful, members of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began a campaign of air strikes on the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians were
displaced from Kosovo and many refugees reported mass killings and other
Among the many individuals indicted by the ICTY have been several
high-ranking members of the Bosnian Serb leadership, including Radovan
Karadži?, former president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, and Serbian army
general Ratko Mladic. However, the work of the tribunal has been hampered by
lack of cooperation from most of the governments in the region where the
conflicts occurred, making it difficult for the tribunal to apprehend the
people it indicted. The first trial of the tribunal opened in May 1996. In 1998
the tribunal became the first international court to find an individual
accountable for rape as a war crime.
In mid-1999 the tribunal set another first by indicting an active
head of state, President Slobodan Miloševi? of the FRY. The tribunal charged
Miloševi? and four other top Serbian or Yugoslav officials with war crimes and
crimes against humanity based on alleged atrocities in Kosovo. Specifically,
the indictment charged the five individuals with conducting a “campaign of
terror and violence directed at Kosovo Albanian civilians.” In 2001 the Serbian
government, responding to international pressure, extradited Miloševi? to the
war crimes tribunal, despite a ruling by the Yugoslav Constitutional Court to
stop his handover.
Later that year the tribunal found a
former Bosnian Serb regional commander, General Radislav Krstic, guilty of
genocide for his role in the massacre of thousands of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim)
men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. The conviction was the first time the
tribunal established that genocide was committed during the war in Bosnia and
Herzegovina. An appeals chamber of the tribunal overruled that verdict in 2004,
changing Krstic’s conviction to “aiding and abetting genocide.” The 2004 ruling
also established beyond doubt that the massacre at Srebrenica was an act of
genocide, conclusively laying to rest all claims that no genocide had occurred
In 2001 the tribunal also convicted three former Bosnian Serb
soldiers of systematically raping and torturing Bosniak women and girls, the
first time individuals were convicted of rape as a crime against humanity. The
court found that Bosnian Serb soldiers used rape as “an instrument of terror”
and convicted two of the men of enslavement for forcibly detaining women and
girls as sex slaves and loaning or selling them to others for sexual abuse. The
trial established sexual enslavement as a war crime.
In late 2001 the tribunal charged Miloševi? with additional war
crimes for his role in the forcible removal of the majority of non-Serbs from
parts of Croatia in 1991 and 1992 and from large areas of Bosnia and
Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995. He also faced a charge of genocide in connection
with the killing or inhumane confinement of thousands of Bosniaks, Bosnian
Croats, and other non-Serb civilians during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Miloševi?’s trial before the tribunal began in February 2002 but was repeatedly
delayed because of his poor health. Miloševi? died in March 2006 before the
trial could be completed.
In November 1994 the Security Council of the United Nations
adopted Resolution 955 creating the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
The tribunal was authorized to prosecute individuals responsible for genocide
and other serious violations of humanitarian law during the 1994 civil war in
Rwanda. Another express purpose of the tribunal was to encourage the process of
national reconciliation in Rwanda and the maintenance of peace in the region.
The tribunal is based in Arusha, Tanzania, and consists of nine trial judges
from different nations, elected by the UN General Assembly. The tribunal shares
appellate judges with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
The civil war in Rwanda began in 1994, after the death of Rwandan
president Juvénal Habyarimana sparked fighting between the nation’s two chief
ethnic groups, the Hutu and Tutsi. Habyarimana was a Hutu. An estimated 500,000
to 1 million people, mostly Tutsi, were killed during the war. The
Hutu-dominated Rwandan army was accused of genocide against the Tutsi.
The first trial started in October 1996. In May 1998 former
Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda pleaded guilty to multiple charges of
genocide and crimes against humanity and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Jean-Paul Akayesu, who was tried and found guilty of genocide and crimes
against humanity, was also sentenced to life imprisonment. Another man, Omar
Serushago, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for similar crimes. These
convictions marked the first instances of an international court finding
individuals guilty of the crime of genocide.
After a six-year trial that began in 2002, one of the masterminds
of the Rwandan genocide, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, and two other military
officers were convicted in December 2008 of genocide, crimes against humanity,
and war crimes. They were sentenced to life imprisonment. Bagosora was the highest-ranking
authority in the Rwandan Defense Ministry at the time the genocide began and
personally ordered the murders of leading government officials, including the
prime minister and the president of the Constitutional Court.
In 2002 the UN and the Sierra Leone government jointly established
a war crimes tribunal, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, to try individuals
who had committed atrocities during Sierra Leone’s civil war, which lasted from
1991 to 2000. Unlike the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which
are administered by the UN and composed of UN-appointed judges and prosecutors,
the Special Court is jointly administered by the UN and the Sierra Leone
government and contains a mix of Sierra Leonean and international judges. The
court has jurisdiction over serious violations of international humanitarian
law and certain Sierra Leonean criminal laws. To avoid placing an undue burden
on the court, its jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed since November
Sierra Leone’s civil war began in 1991 when a rebel group, the
Revolutionary United Front (RUF), launched a violent campaign against the
government. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the ensuing war, in
which rebel forces terrorized the country by raping and mutilating thousands of
civilians, often hacking off their limbs. Rebels also abducted children and
forced them into combat. The RUF was reportedly supported by the government of
Charles Taylor in neighboring Liberia. The civil war ended in 2000.
In 2003 the Special Court issued its first indictments. The court
charged seven people, including rebel leader Foday Sankoh and Internal Affairs
Minister Sam Hinga Norman, with murder, rape, extermination, sexual slavery,
conscription of children into an armed force, and other crimes. Sankoh died in
July 2003 while in UN custody. The same year Taylor lost power in Liberia and
went into exile in Nigeria. In 2006 Nigeria deported Taylor to The Hague to
face charges before the Special Court. The charges included murder, sexual
violence, using children as soldiers, enslavement, and terrorizing the civilian
population of Sierra Leone. The prosecution alleged that Taylor had supplied
the RUF with training, money, arms, and ammunition with the goal of sharing
power over Sierra Leone and gaining access to its diamond trade. Taylor’s trial
began in June 2007, but he refused to attend the proceedings.
The Nürnberg and other war crimes trials were a notable step in
the evolution of international penal law. The standing of the trials suffered
sharply, however, because the proceedings were carried out under auspices of
victorious powers and the charges were brought only against the nationals of
vanquished Germany and Japan. Nevertheless, the principles applied in the
Nürnberg and Tokyo trials helped to strengthen international law and the
judicial mechanisms for its enforcement. Also, the United Nations has ratified
the general principles of the trials.
use of international war crimes tribunals in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda,
and in Sierra Leone extends the principles that were the basis of the other war
crimes trials to the treatment of civilians in conflicts involving only one
nation. Recent war crimes trials have also established the principle that even
the victors in a violent conflict are subject to criminal prosecution.
Atrocities occurred in Bangladesh, 1971
Beginning with the
start of Operation Searchlight
on 25 March 1971 and continuing throughout the Bangladesh
Liberation War, there were widespread violations of human rights in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) perpetrated by the Pakistan Army with support from local political
and religious militias. Time reported a high U.S. official as saying
“It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis
in Poland.” Genocide is the term
that is used to describe the event in almost every major publication and
newspaper in Bangladesh. Apart from that all international publications on
genocide and human rights abuses classify the atrocities of 1971 as an act of
genocide by West Pakistan.
On 16 December 2002, the George
Washington University’s National Security
Archive published a collection of declassified documents, consisting
mostly of communications between US embassy officials and USIS
centers in Dhaka and India, and officials in Washington DC. These documents show
that US officials working in diplomatic institutions within Bangladesh used the
terms selective genocide and genocide (see The Blood Telegram) to describe events they had
knowledge of at the time. The complete chronology of events as reported to
Nixon administration can be found on Department of State website. Telegrams
from Nixon archives released by United
States Department of State detail some of the atrocities.
Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were
killed, while the Hamoodur Rahman
Commission, an official Pakistan Government investigation, put the
figure as low as 26,000 civilian casualties. The international media and
reference books in English have also published figures which vary greatly from
200,000 to 3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole. A further eight to ten million
people fled the country to seek safety in India.
Large sections of the intellectual community of Bangladesh were murdered,
mostly by the Al-Shams and Al-Badr
forces, at the instruction of the Pakistani Army.
There are many mass graves in Bangladesh, and more are
continually being discovered (such as one in an old well near a mosque in Dhaka,
located in the non-Bengali region of the city, which was discovered in August
1999). The first night of war on Bengalis, which is documented in telegrams
from the American Consulate in Dhaka to the United States State Department, saw
indiscriminate killings of students of Dhaka University and other civilians.
Numerous women were tortured, raped and killed during the war. The exact
numbers are not known and are a subject of debate. Bangladeshi sources cite a
figure of 200,000 women raped, giving birth to thousands of war-babies. The Pakistan Army also kept numerous
Bengali women as sex-slaves inside the Dhaka Cantonment. Most of the girls were
captured from Dhaka University
and private homes. There are reports of sectarian violence not only perpetrated
and encouraged by the Pakistani army, but also by Bengali nationalists against
non-Bengali minorities, especially Biharis.
The number of civilians that died in the Bangladesh War
is not accurately known. There is a great disparity in the casualty figures put
forth by Pakistan on one hand (25,000, as reported in the Hamoodur Rahman
Commission) and India and Bangladesh on the otherhand. (From 1972 to
1975 the first post-war prime minister of
Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, claimed
on several occasions that at least three million died). The international media
and reference books in English have also have published figures which vary
greatly: varying from 5,000–35,000 in Dhaka, and 200,000–3,000,000 for
Bangladesh as a whole. It is believed in certain quarters that the figure of
three million has its origins in comments made by Yahya Khan to the journalist Robert Payne on 22
February 1971: “Kill three million of them, and the rest will eat out of
The Office of the Historian of the United
States Department of State held a two-day conference in late June
2005 on U.S. policy in South Asia between 1961
and 1972. The State Department invited international scholars to express their
views on declassified documents recently published in the Foreign Relations
of the United States series. According to a newspaper report published in
both Pakistani and Bangladeshi newspapers, Bangladeshi speakers at the
conference stated that the official Bangladeshi figure of civilian deaths was
close to 300,000, which was wrongly translated from Bengali into English as
three million. Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury acknowledged that Bangladesh
alone cannot correct this mistake and suggested Pakistan and Bangladesh should
form a joint commission to investigate the 1971 disaster and prepare a report.
In October 1997 R. J. Rummel published a book, which is
available on the web, titled Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass
Murder Since 1900. In Chapter 8, Statistics Of Pakistan’s Democide –
Estimates, Calculations, And Sources, he states:
Rummel goes on to collate what he considers the most
credible estimates published by others into what he calls democide. He writes that “Consolidating
both ranges, I give a final estimate of Pakistan’s democide to be 300,000 to
3,000,000, or a prudent 1,500,000.”
was a planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1971. Ordered by the
government in West Pakistan, this
was seen as the sequel to Operation Blitz which had been launched in November
The original plan envisioned taking control of the major
cities on 26 March 1971, and then eliminating all opposition, political or
military, within one month. The prolonged Bengali resistance was not
anticipated by Pakistani planners. The main phase of Operation Searchlight
ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid May. The
operation also began the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. These systematic killings
only served to enrage the Bengalis which ultimately resulted in the secession
of East Pakistan later in the same year.
Killing of intellectuals
the war, the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators carried out a systematic
execution of the leading Bengali intellectuals. A number of professors from
Dhaka University were killed during the first few days of the war. However, the
most extreme cases of targeted killing of intellectuals took place during the
last few days of the war. Professors, journalists, doctors, artists, engineers,
writers were rounded up by Pakistan Army and the Razakar militia in Dhaka, blindfolded, taken to
torture cells in Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Nakhalpara, Rajarbagh and other locations
in different sections of the city to be executed en masse in the killing
fields, most notably at Rayerbazar and Mirpur. Allegedly, the Pakistani Army and its
paramilitary arm, the Al-Badr
and Al-Shams forces created a list of doctors,
teachers, poets, and scholars. Some sources also allege the role of the CIA
in devising the plan.
14 December 1971, only two days before surrendering to the Indian military and
the Mukhti Bahini forces, the Pakistani army with the assistance of local
collaborators systematically executed an estimated 991 teachers, 13
journalists, 49 physicians, 42 lawyers, and 16 writers, artists and engineers.
Even after the official ending of the war on 16 December there were reports of
firing from the armed Pakistani soldiers or their collaborators. In one such
incident, notable film-maker Jahir Raihan was
killed on January 30, 1972 in Mirpur allegedly by the armed Beharis. In memory
of the persons killed, December 14 is mourned in Bangladesh as Shaheed
Buddhijibi Dibosh (“Day of the Martyred Intellectuals”).
Several noted intellectuals who were killed from the time
period of 25 March to 16 December, 1971 in different parts of the country
include Dhaka University professors Dr. Govinda Chandra Dev
(Philosophy), Dr. Munier Chowdhury
(Bengali Literature), Dr. Mufazzal Haider
Chaudhury (Bengali Literature), Dr. Anwar Pasha (Bengali Literature), Dr M Abul
Khair (History), Dr. Jyotirmoy Guhathakurta (English Literature), Humayun Kabir
(English Literature), Rashidul Hasan (English Literature) and Saidul Hassan
(Physics), as well Dr. Hobibur Rahman (Professor of Mathematics at Rajshahi
University), Dr. Mohammed Fazle Rabbee
(Cardiologist), Dr. Alim Chowdhury (Ophthalmologist), Shahidullah Kaiser
(Journalist), Nizamuddin Ahmed (Journalist), Selina Parvin (Journalist), Altaf Mahmud (Lyricist and musician), Dhirendranath Datta
(Politician) and RP Saha (Philanthropist).
Numerous women were tortured, raped and killed during the
war. Again, exact numbers are not known and are a subject of debate.
Bangladeshi sources cite a figure of 200,000 women raped, giving birth to
thousands of war-babies. The Pakistan
Army also kept numerous Bengali women as sex-slaves inside the Dhaka
Cantonment. Most of the girls were captured from Dhaka University and private homes.
Among other sources, Susan Brownmiller refers to an even higher
number of over 400,000. Pakistani sources claim the number is much lower,
though having not completely denied rape incidents. Brownmiller quotes:
Khadiga, thirteen years old, was interviewed by a
photojournalist in Dacca. She was walking to school with four other girls when
they were kidnapped by a gang of Pakistani soldiers. All five were put in a
military brothel in Mohammedpur and held captive for six months until the end
of the war.
Another work that has included direct experiences from
the women raped is Ami Birangona Bolchhi (“I, the heroine,
speak”) by Nilima Ibrahim. The
work includes in its name from the word Birangona (Heroine), given by
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after the war, to the raped and tortured women during the
war. This was a conscious effort to alleviate any social stigma the women might
face in the society. How successful this effort was is doubtful, though. In
October 2005 Sarmila Bose (a Harvard-educated Bengali Indian
academic related to the Indian Freedom
Struggle leader Netaji Subhash Chandra
Bose), published a paper suggesting that the casualties and rape
allegations in the war have been greatly exaggerated for political purposes. This
work has been criticised in Bangladesh and her research methods have been
attacked by expatriate Bengalis as shoddy and biased because of the work’s
heavy reliance on Pakistani sources and for discrediting victims’ testimonies
based on their lack of formal education.
Violence against minorities
The minorities of Bangladesh, especially the Hindus, were specific targets of the Pakistan army. There was
widespread killing of Hindu males, and rapes of women. More than 60% of the
Bengali refugees that had fled to India were Hindus. It is not exactly known
what percentage of the people killed by the Pakistan army were Hindus, but it is safe to say
it was disproportionately high. This widespread violence against Hindus was
motivated by a policy to purge East Pakistan of what was seen as Hindu and
Indian influences. The West Pakistani rulers identified the Bengali culture
with Hindu and Indian culture, and thought that the eradication of Hindus would
remove such influences from the majority Muslims in East Pakistan.
The period also saw a wave of sectarian violence carried
out by Bengali nationalists against non-Bengali minorities, especially Biharis, in the period of December 1970 — March 1971, when
Biharis were subject to systematic persecution. It is estimated that between
15,000 and 50,000 Biharis were killed in this period, and is believed by some
that both Mujibur and Ziaur Rahman, and actively supported by the Indian
military, intentionally incited and then failed to stop the violence against
After the defeat of the Pakistani forces, Bangladeshi nationalist forces,
most notoriously the Kader Bahini militia
led by Abdul Kader Siddique,
exacted revenge on those who had been viewed as ‘collaborators’ of the
Pakistani forces. In particular, Biharis, some of whom had formed Razakars and Al
Shams Islamist militias in support of the Pakistani Army, were subjected to
massive reprisal attacks. A large numbers of Biharis were killed by Mukti
Bahini soldiers, while hundreds of thousands were placed in refugee camps where
they languished for many years. Fearing continued persecution in the new state
of Bangladesh, they sought refuge in Pakistan; however the Pakistani government
was reluctant to recognize their citizenship, making them effectively a stateless people.
After the minimum 20 countries became parties to the Genocide Convention,
it came into force as international law on 12 January 1951. At that time
however, only two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council
were parties to the treaty, and it was not until after the last of the last
five permanent members ratified the treaty in 1988, and the Cold War came to an end, that the international
law on the crime of genocide began to be enforced. As such, the allegation that
genocide took place during the Bangladesh War of 1971 was never investigated by
an international tribunal set up under the auspices of the United Nations.
Although both Pakistan and its primary ally USA have
denied genocide allegations, the word ‘genocide’ was and is used frequently
amongst observers and scholars of the events that transpired during the 1971
war. Within Bangladesh, ‘genocide’ is the term used to describe the event in
almost every major publication and newspaper. It is also used in some
publications outside the subcontinent for example The Guinness
Book of Records lists the Bengali atrocities as one of the top 5 genocides in the 20th century.
On 16 December 2002, the George Washington University’s
National Security Archives published a collection of declassified documents,
mostly consisting of communications between US officials working in embassies
and USIS centers in Dhaka and in India, and officials in Washington DC. These
documents show that US officials working in diplomatic institutions within
Bangladesh used the terms ‘selective genocide’ and ‘genocide’ (Blood telegram) to describe events they had
knowledge of at the time. They also show that President Nixon, advised by Henry
Kissinger, decided to downplay this secret internal advise, because he wanted
to protect the interests of Pakistan as he was apprehensive of India’s
friendship with the USSR, and he was seeking a closer relationship
with China, who supported Pakistan.
In his book The Trials of Henry Kissinger,
Christopher Hitchens elaborates on what he saw as the efforts of Henry
Kissinger to subvert the aspirations of independence on the part of the
Bengalis. Hitchens not only claims that the term genocide is appropriate to
describe the results of the struggle, but also points to the efforts of Henry
Kissinger in undermining others who condemned the then ongoing atrocities as
being a genocide.
Who were war criminals?
After beginning the Bangladesh
liberation war, Pakistani military forces required military support who wants
still to live with Pakistan as well as non-bangali muhajirs in order to abolish
the independence fighters of Bangladesh.
There were three types of war
Refugees who were came from others parts of India, during separation of India
and Pakistan, and settled in East Pakistan
Bengali muslim student from colleges, universities and madrasah ,who were loyal to jamat-e-islami
Bengali muslim students, teachers, and supporters of Islamic parties other than
jamat-e-islami.these smaller parties included in Nejam-e-islami and various
functions of Muslim leage
List of Major war criminals
War Crimes Facts Finding Committee (WCFFC), a research organization,
yesterday unveiled a list of 1,597 war criminals responsible for the mass
killings, rapes and other atrocities during the Liberation War. Of those on the
list, 369 are members of Pakistan military, 1,150 are their local collaborators
including members of Razakar and Al Badr [forces formed to aid the occupation
army] and Peace Committee, and 78 are Biharis.
The fact-finding committee said
this is not the final list, and they would soon come up with another one with
more evidence and documents.
The local collaborators
according to the list who played major role are as follows:
Rahman Nizami, head of Chhatra Sangha, the students’ organization of
* Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid – president of Al-Badr
* Anwar Zahid
The evidences against those accused
ABBAS ALl KHAN currently holds the second-highest position in the
Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest and most powerful fundamentalist political party
in Bangladesh. Until Golam Azam was officially declared to be the Ameer (or
Leader) of the party, Khan acted as the chief.
Khan’s role in 1971 was against the independence of Bangladesh, and against the
spirit of Bangalee nationalism. At the time he was the deputy chief of Pakistan
Jamaat-e-Islami. Khan gave leadership to para-military forces such as the
Razakars, Al-Badrs and Al-Shams, all formed by the Jamaat and like-minded
parties in cooperation with the Pakistan army.
The principal aim behind formation of these three forces was to provide
battle-field support to the military, gather intelligence about local
resistance groups, identify and eliminate Bangalee nationalist elements, and
carry out raids on villages involving mass killings, rape, arson and lootings.
The Pakistan army enjoyed direct assistance from these para-military forces in
its campaign of genocide, which resulted in the death of three million unarmed
people of Bangladesh.
Abbas Ali Khan abetted and encouraged the Pakistan army’s genocide through
speeches at countless rallies, statements to and articles in newspapers etc.
Khan also played a leading role in the central “Peace Committee”,
which was set up to directly and indirectly assist the Pakistan army’s campaign
in Bangladesh. The “Peace Committee” formed branches all over the
country, manned by local leaders of Jamaat and camp-followers. These committees
acted as the political wing of the three para-military forces and played an
active role in assisting Pakistan army’s attempt to brutally suppress the
Bangalee people’s struggle for freedom in 1971.
Members of the
Razakar force under Khan’s leadership were given powers equal to those of the
regular armed forces. The Razakars, after a short course of training, carried
out widespread killings, rapes and looting in villages.
reports in the press during 1971, Khan became a minister in the cabinet of
Quisling governor M A Malek, after taking part in a series of stage-managed
parliamentary by-elections. The seats put up for by-elections were all held by
members of the Awami League, the nationalist party which won a landslide
victory in the 1970 general elections. The seats were declared vacant by the
Pakistan military junta after the Awami League was banned on Mar 26, 1971.
Khan assumed the
office of the minister for education in Malek’s puppet government on Sept 17,
1971. Golam Azam, one of the principal war criminals of 1971, congratulated
this cabinet and said, “I hope this cabinet will be able to do more than
what the ‘Peace Committees’ have been able to do so far” On page 47 of the
same book of compilations, Raushan quotes Azam as saying at a reception given
by Dhaka city branch of the Jamaat in Hotel Empire that, “Jamaat-e-Islami
considers Pakistan and Islam one and the same. So, Jamaat members would not
consider life worth living if there was no Pakistan. That’s why Jamaat is
working to bring back confidence and sense of security among the people by
working through “Peace Committees”, by sending leaders to join
Razakar and Al-Badr forces, and through other means. With this aim in mind,
Jamaat workers have compelled two senior leaders to become ministers”.
On Nov 25, Abbas
Ali Khan said in a statement, “I have no doubt that the Indian army has
began a shameless aggression in several fronts under the guise of the Mukti
Bahini with the despicable aim of swallowing East Pakistan (The Mukti Bahini or
liberation army, formed by Bangalee nationalist civilians and Bangalee members
of the Pakistan army who rebelled after the military crackdown began on the
night of Mar 25, 1971). Our armed forces alone cannot carry on this war. It is
the duty of every citizen to strengthen the hands of our soldiers and help save
the dignity of our dear Pakistan”
In the same statement, with an oblique
reference to Bangalee intellectuals and freedom fighters, he called on people
to “stay alert against people engaged in anti-state and destructive
activities. Help the armed forces and the ‘Peace Committees’ to eliminate these
On Dec 10, just
four days before the killings of intellectuals reached its peak, he said in
another speech, “In the Battle of Badr, only 313 Muslim troops faced over
1,000 Kuraish, and were victorious. Today, 130 million people (the then population
of West Pakistan and Bangladesh combined) are fully prepared to defend this
sacred land. Our enemies are the rumour-mongers, the agent-provocateurs and
those who propagate in favour of India or that imaginary country Bangladesh.
You have to beware of these enemies. Smash their poisonous fangs at the first
opportunity. Join hands with our Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams forces and
dedicate yourself to the task of saving the country” (ibid, Raushan)
formed several sub-committees in December to strengthen the war effort. Khan
was put in charge of the information sub-committee, along with A S M. Solaiman.
Khan continued to propagate against Bangladesh even after 1971. In 1980, while
addressing his first post- 1971 press conference, Khan showed no remorse for
what he or his party had done. Instead, he said, “We did the right thing
in 1971”.Even today, Khan continues to conspire against the independence
of Bangladesh and against the Bangalee national identity of the people. He
continues his efforts to turn Bangladesh into a second Pakistan.
Matiur Rahman Nizami
MAULANA MATIUR RAHMAN NIZAMI of Pabna district in the north-west of Bangladesh
is currently the secretary general and leader of the parliamentary party of the
Nizami carried out a wide range of activities against the war of independence
in 1971. At the time he was president of Jamaat’s youth front, the Islami
Chattra Sangha (ICS, or Islamic Student’s Organisation). Under his direct
supervision, and leadership, the Al-Badr force was set-up to eliminate freedom
fighters. Nizami was the commander-in-chief of the Al-Badrs.
The principal aim of the Al-Badr, as a para-military force auxiliary to the
Pakistan army, was to turn the Bangalee people into a populace, which would
believe in Pakistan and the Islamic philosophy of life from a cultural and
Leaders of the
Al-Badr drew-up the blue-print for the murder of hundreds of Bangalee
intellectuals across the country. On their orders, hundreds of such prominent
men and women of letter and crafts were murdered throughout Bangladesh
including Dhaka. Horrifying tales of these killings by the Al-Badr under
Nizami’ s command have been published in many newspapers and journals at home
his followers through speeches as well as articles in newspapers. In one such
article in the party mouth-piece daily Sangram, he wrote, “The day is not
far away when the young men of Al-Badr, side by side with the armed forces,
will defeat the Hindu force (enemies) and raise the victorious banner of Islam
all over the world, after the destroying the existence of India” (source:
Daily Sangram,Nov. 14, 1971).
On April 12,
1971, Nizami joined Azam and other leading collaborators such as Khan A Sabur
etc., to lead a procession in Dhaka to declare support for Pakistan. The
procession, under the banner of the “Peace Committee”, ended with a
special prayer for the survival of Pakistan (Daily Sangram, April 13, 1971).
south-west of Dhaka, Nizami addressed para-military troops at the district
headquarters of the Razakar force, and said, “In this hour of national
crisis, it is the duty of every Razakar to carry out his national duty to
eliminate those who are engaged in war against Pakistan and Islam” (Daily
Sangram, Sept 15, 1971).
Nizami’s home district of Pabna have brought allegations of direct and indirect
involvement in killings, rape, arson, looting etc.
One such person
is Aminul Islam Dablu of Brishlika village under the Bera police station.Dablu
told the Commission that his father M Sohrab Ali was killed on the orders of
Nizami. Dablu further said other people of the area, including Profulla
Pramanik, Bhadu Pramanik, Manu Pramanik and Shashthi Pramanik were killed on
Nizami’ s orders. He said there were several eyewitnesses to those killings.
Abdul Quddus, a
freedom fighter from Madhabpur village in Pabna, once spent two weeks in an
Al-Badr camp after being arrested. He witnessed plans being discussed and
drawn-up by the Al-Badr men under supervision of Nizami, to carry out killings,
arson, rape etc.
On Nov 26, a Razakar commander named
Sattar guided Pakistani troops to the Dhulaupara village where 30 freedom
fighters were subsequently killed. According to Quddus, Sattar carried out his
activities under Nizami’s orders.
Quddus told the Commission he was able to
attend a secret gathering of Al-Badr, which was also attended by Nizami who
gave instructions about elimination of freedom fighters. In that meeting,
houses of Awami League supporters and possible bases and safe-houses being used
by freedom fighters were identified. Quddus said, Nizami gave orders to finish
off Awami League supporters and destroy bases of the freedom fighters.
The day after the meeting, Al-Badr forces in cooperation with Razakars,
surrounded the village of Brishlika and burnt it to the ground. Quddus said
Nizami himself bayoneted to death one Bateswar Shaha in Madhabpur village,
situated under Sathia PS, which is now part of the parliamentary constituency
where Nizami won a seat in 1991 with a slender majority.
A similar allegation against Nizami was brought by M Shahjahan Ali of Madhabpur
village. Ali was captured by Razakars along with several other freedom
fighters. The Razakars then proceeded to torture the prisoners with bayonets,
finally using long knives to slit their throats. Twelve freedom fighters were
slaughtered in that manner, but Ali miraculously survived, although he has a
deep scar along his throat and is permanently paralyzed.
Ali said one prisoner was burnt alive after being doused with petrol. He said
all these killings of prisoners were carried out on Nizami’s order.
MUHAMMAD KAMRUZZAMAN is currently the
Assistant Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh. He is the former
executive editor of the party mouthpiece Daily Sangram, and presently editor of
the weekly Sonar Bangla.
Information about his anti-liberation activities and complicity in war crimes
in 1971 have been gathered from newspapers of the time, authoritative books on
the history of the war and from testimony of eyewitnesses and victims. In 1971,
Kamruzzaman was the leader of the Islami Chattra Sangha in the district of
Mymensingh, and he was the principal organiser of the Al-Badr force, which was
first formed in the nearby area of Jamalpur.
An article in the Daily Sangram on August 16, 1971, said, “A rally and
symposium were organised in Mymensingh by the Al-Badr to celebrate the 25th
independence day of Pakistan. The chief organiser of the Al-Badr, Muhammad
Kamruzzaman presided over the symposium held at the local Muslim Institute.
According to a wire service report, speakers at the symposium issued strong
warnings about those involved in the conspiracy to destroy the country”
research-based historical book, Killers and Collaborators of 1971: An Account
of Their Whereabouts, compiled by the Centre for the Development of the Spirit
of the Liberation War, more light is thrown on the role of Kamruzzaman in 1971:
“As soon as Al-Badr was formed in Jamalpur as a volunteers’ organization,
the Jamaat leadership realised that their student wing could be turned into an
armed force, and used as a special squad to carry out killings of
intellectuals, in addition to carrying out general war duties. First, activists
of the Islami Chattra Sangha in the entire district of Mymensingh were
organised as the Al-Badr and given weapons training. Kamruzzaman was in charge
of this organisational work. Within a month, Kamruzzaman incorporated all the
cadres of the ICS into the Al-Badr” (page 111- 112).
One Fazlul Huq
of Sherpur area, father of a martyr, told the Commission that sometime in June
or July in 1971, his son Badiuzzaman was taken away by an 11-member Al-Badr
squad led by Kamruzzaman. Huq said his son was taken to the Pakistan army camp
in nearby Ahmednagar and murdered. After independence, the late Badiuzzaman’s
brother Hasanuzzaman filed a case at the Nalitabari police station, with
Kamruzzaman as the principal among the 18 accused in the murder of Badiuzzaman.
In the same
Sherpur area, one Shahjahan Talukdar told the Commission that cadres of the
Al-Badr kidnapped his cousin Golam Mostafa on August 24, 1971, in broad
daylight. Mostafa was then taken to the local Al-Badr camp, which was set up in
a house on Surendra Mohan Road of Sherpur town. After brutally torturing
Mostafa at the camp, Al-Badr forcibly took him to the nearby Sherry Bridge and
shot him dead. Kamruzzaman was known to have ordered the killing. Many others
in Sherpur confirmed that the killing of Golam Mostafa was carried out on
Kamruzzaman’s direct order.
torture at the Al-Badr camp in Sherpur were also made by Tapas Shaha, a former
student leader of the area. He said men, women and youth of the area used to be
taken forcibly to the camp where Al-Badr cadres under direct supervision of
Kamruzzaman used to carry out gruesome acts of torture.
For instance, one Majid, at the time an
elected office-bearer of the town council, was taken to the camp and kept
inside a darkened hole for a whole day.
In the middle of
May, the then head of the Department of Islamic History and Culture at Sherpur
College, Syed Abdul Hannan was paraded through the streets of the town, totally
naked, with his head shaven and a “garland” of shoes around his neck.
Kamruzzaman and his cohorts dragged the professor around the town in mid-day,
beating him with leather whips as he was dragged, Tapas Shaha told the
Ziaul Huq, a
former town leader of the Awami League said, he was taken by three Al-Badr men
on August 22 at around 5pm. He was then kept at the camp for two days, in the
darkened hole. He said, the camp or torture centre was being run by
Kamruzzaman. He was released after being told to leave the area, otherwise he
was told he would be killed, Huq told the Commission.
Hira, a former freedom fighter and currently a leader of the Jatiya Party, said
his home was burnt down by Pakistani troops who were being guided by
Kamruzzaman. He told the Commission that the troops set up five bunkers in the
premises of his home, and used a litchi tree in the courtyard to tie up
prisoners before shooting them dead.
eyewitness Musfiquzzaman, currently a teacher at the Haji Jal Mamud College in
Sherpur, said that homes and business establishments at Tin Ani Bazar were
looted in the middle of August in the presence of and under the leadership of
One eyewitness, who worked as a driver of trucks, which were used to carry
troops as well as prisoners and dead bodies said, that Kamruzzaman guided Pakistani
troops to the house of a freedom fighter identified only as Honta. The troops
burned the house down, the driver said.
There were also
allegations that Kamruzzaman organized and led robbery gangs in the area.
minister in the cabinet of late President Lt. Gen. Ziaur Rahman (1977-81),
ABDUL ALIM served as the chairman of the “Peace Committee” in the
district of Joypurhat in the north-west of the country during 1971. Information
about his war crimes and anti-liberation activities have been gathered from
newspapers of the period, historical books and from testimony given by those
Immediately after independence,
mass-circulation daily Dainik Bangla published a report on Jan. 12, 1971, under
the headline “Brutality of the aggressors have put to shade even the
killers of .the Middle Ages”. The report said that leader of the Joypurhat
“Peace Committee” Abdul Alim of the Muslim League party was once
asked, soon after Pakistan president Gen. Yahya Khan had declared an
“amnesty” for those refugees who had crossed into India, if members
of the Hindu community would face any problem returning to their homes.
“In reply he (Alim) said, ‘There is no amnesty for them, the moment they
return they’ll be handed over to the armed forces’. That was an unbelievable
comment. If an educated person could harbour such thoughts, then it is fairly
easy to gauge what sort of attitude the lesser-educated or illiterate
collaborators had towards members of the religious minority community. In
effect, those handful of Hindus who came back after Yahya’s cosmetic amnesty,
never the saw the light of day again”.
Another piece of evidence against Alim is given on page 38- 39 of the
compilation by the Centre for the Development of the Spirit of the Liberation
War. It says, “Abdul Alim himself carried out execution of Bangalees by
lining them up in rows and then shooting them. Besides, there are many
allegations of Alim killing Bangalees by bayonet charges”.
The same compilation titled Killers and Collaborators of 1971: An Account of
Their Whereabouts, carried a photograph from a newspaper of the period, which
showed a beaming Alim standing beside one Major Afzal of the Pakistan army.
Sitting on the ground were a number of freedom fighters, blindfolded and with
their hands tied behind their backs. “These freedom fighters were paraded
through the town and later shot dead. After liberation, the people of Joypurhat
caught Alim and put him in a cage an as exhibit”, the caption in the book
Dr Kazi Nazrul Islam of Joypurhat, son of late Dr Abul Kashem, told the
Commission that on July 24, 1971, Razakar forces and Pakistani troops raided
his father’s home and took the latter away. This was done on the orders of
Abdul Alim, he said.After torturing Kashem throughout the night, the Razakars
took him to Alim at the “Peace Committee” office. Kashem was then
sent to Joypurhat police station, and finally to Pakistan army camp at nearby
Khanjanpur. On July 26, Kashem was murdered on the order of Alim. Kashem’s
decomposed body was discovered in a sugarcane field a month later.
The killing of Abul Kashem on the orders of Abdul Alim was confirmed by many
others in the area, including elected village council chairman of Bomboo Union
Molla Shamsul Alam.
Molla Shamsul Alam, an eyewitness to the activities of Alim, narrated the tale
of one freedom fighter, Fazlu who was captured by Pakistani troops after a
fire-fight. He said the Pakistanis took Fazlu and two other prisoners to Abdul
Alim at the C O Colony hall room. Outside, Alim stood on truck and said to
supporters gathered there, “Fazlu’s father is a friend of mine. I had
repeatedly asked him to dissuade his son from this path, but he didn’t. Today
he has to be to given his punishment, and that is death. I ask you all to find
out those who still talk of Joy Bangla (Victory to Bengal, war-cry of the
freedom fighters), in your neighborhoods and beat them to death”.
Fazlu and others
were then taken to Alim’ s house where they were put through inhuman torture.
Later they were taken to the killing grounds in Khanjanpur and murdered.
Molla Shamsul Alam also alleged in his testimony that Alim carried out killings
of poor members of the Garoal community. In April 1971, Pakistani troops
arrested 26 Garoals and took them to Alim’s house. They were kept there for
three days, taken to Khanjanpur and killed.
Alam further said that Alim used his house
as a recruitment camp for Razakars during 1971. Recruitment of Razakars was one
of Alim’s duties.
Alam said that in April, Pakistani troops surrounded the Hindu area of
Koroikadipur village in Joypurhat and massacred 165 men and women. This raid
was carried out on the orders of Alim and Jamaat leader Abbas Ali Khan, he
In addition to
allegations of murder and torture, there are accusations of rape against Alim.
Shamsul Huq, an elected village council chairman, said that Alim always
justified acts of murder, rape etc., by Pakistani troops and Razakars.
According to Huq, Alim used to say “troops do these sorts of things at war
time. This is not a fault. We have to accept it in the interest of the
Shamsul Alam, an
associate professor at Joypurhat College, said that Alim and his cohorts once
paraded 26 captured freedom fighters around town on trucks before the prisoners
were put to death. Before killing them, Alim put the prisoners on display at
Joypurhat College playing field, where he told the students, “You can all
understand the fate of these prisoners. They are all going to die. If you
students join the Mukti Bahini, then your fate will be the same”.
Idris Ali said he entered his home-town
Joypurhat on Dec. 5 along with other freedom fighters. They captured the
“Peace Committee” headquarters the same day, and discovered various
documents, including lists of intellectuals earmarked for elimination. Among
the documents was minutes of a meeting held on Dec. 4 and presided over by
Abbas Ali Khan, then a minister in the East Pakistan cabinet of Quisling
Governor Malek. The minutes bore Alim’s signature.
There were many
other eyewitness reports by local inhabitants of the killings, torture and
repression carried out in the area by Alim.
Delwar Hossain Sayeedi
HOSSAIN SAYEEDI is currently a member of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Majlish-e-Shura
or central committee, During 1971, Sayeedi took active part in the organisation
of Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams forces in his own area of Pirojpur in the
south of the country, in order to assist the Pakistan army.
Sayeedi was not associated with any
political party in 1971, but conducted his activities in his individual
capacity as a ‘maulana’ or Islamic scholar. There are allegations that he
actively helped the Pakistani forces in their campaign of killings, lootings,
rape, arson etc., by forming local para-military forces. During the war, he
along with four associates formed an organisation called “Fund of the
Five”. The principal aim of the organisation was to loot and take over
property of freedom fighters and Bangalee Hindus. He used to sell these looted
property and conduct a profitable business from the sales proceedings.
Allegations against Sayeedi were made by Mizan, a former Freedom fighter.
“Sayeedi gave direct assistance and encouragement to Pakistani forces
during the Liberation War. He personally looted houses of Hindu families at
Parer Hat area in Pirojpur, citing religious strictures as justification of the
repression on the Hindus. He broke into the shop of a Hindu trader named Madan
and carried all the goods off home. Sayeedi set up shops by the ferry port near
Parer Hat with goods looted from shops at Shaheb Bazar market. People of this
area still have not forgotten Sayeedi’s treachery”.
Abdur Razzak Khan, an advocate in
Pirojpur, told the Commission that Sayeedi forcibly took over the home of a
local Hindu, Bipod Shaha, and continued to live there during the whole period,
He said Sayeedi used to draw-up lists of suspected freedom fighters in the area
and supply the names to the Pakistan army camped nearby. Khan also claimed that
Sayeedi supplied young girls, abducted from nearby village homes, to the
Pakistani camps. Sayeedi acted as guide to the Pakistani forces in their
destructive and murderous raid on Parer Hat ferry port. According to Khan,
Sayeedi also forced young men of the area to join the AI-Badr force, and any
refusal usually led to the killing of the objector.
Similar allegations were brought against Sayeedi by Ali Haider, a member of the
Supreme Court Bar and currently a leader of the central committee of the
left-leaning Ganotontri (Democratic) Party. He told the Commission that the
brother and other relatives of one Himangshu Babu were killed with the direct
assistance of Sayeedi. He also said that Ganopati Halder, an accomplished
student known in the area for his academic acumen, was also killed by Sayeedi.
Haider said Sayeedi was involved in the
killings of many social workers, intellectuals and student leaders of the area.
Mid-ranking civil servants posted in the area, who were suspected of
sympathising with the cause of Bangladesh, were also picked out to be murdered.
One Bhaguathi, accused of supplying information to the freedom fighters by
Sayeedi, was tied to the back of a motorcycle and dragged for five miles before
being killed, he said.
A former elected
village council chairman of the area, M Alauddin Khan, told the Commission that
mass killings of intellectuals and students took place in the area at the
instigation, encouragement and direction of Sayeedi. He brought further
accusations of lootings, particularly of property of local Hindus, against
Beni Madhab Shaha, Sayeedi and his associates kidnapped and killed Abdul Aziz,
a non-commissioned officer in the para-military East Pakistan Rifles (the force
had joined the freedom war enmasse as soon as Pakistan army operations began on
Mar 25). Sayeedi and his men also kidnapped and killed others, including
Krishna Kanta Shaha, Bani Kanta Sikdar, Tarani Kanta Sikdar, Beni Madhab Shaha
Sayeedi and his
cohorts carried out repression on the daughters of Hari Sadhu and Bipod Shaha,
she said. Sayeedi, after looting the home of the Talukdars, a
locally-influential Hindu land-owning family, kidnapped 25 women from the
premises and sent them to the Pakistan army camp.
allegations that Sayeedi was involved in the killing of sub-divisional police
officer (SDPO) Faizur Rahman, father of Humayun Ahmed, a renowned writer and
professor of chemistry at the University of Dhaka. The allegations were brought
by Sufia Haider and Ali Haider Khan, daughter and son-in-law respectively of
Ahmed. They said Pakistani troops killed Faizur Rahman with the assistance of
Sayeedi and his associates, who then proceeded to loot the property of the
MANNAN, the president of the Jamiat-e- Mudarressin, an organisation of teachers
of madrasas (special schools for Islamic learning from primary level to Grade
12) and owner of the daily Inquilab, the country’s second-highest circulated
newspaper, was one of the key collaborators of the Pakistani army during the
1971 War of Liberation.
A minister under
General Ziaur Rahman after 1976 and then in the cabinet of president H M
Ershad, Mannan was also associated with the killings of the intellectuals. He
hails from the Devipur village of Faridganj thana under Chandpur district.
Mannan’s area of anti-liberation activity ranged from Faridganj area in the
eastern district of Comilla to Dhaka. In 1971, he was one of the top leaders of
the so-called Peace and Welfare Council that was set up to aid and abet the Pakistani
During the war, Maulana Mannan issued
several statements in favour of the mass murders being committed by the
Pakistani forces. In a statement published in newspapers on 27 April 1971, he
said: “Patriotic people of East Pakistan have now come forward with
crusading zeal to uproot the armed intruders and the secessionists. With the
active support of the people, our brave armed forces have taken control of all
On September 27,
1971 Maulana Mannan, then president of the Madrasah Teachers’ Association, led
a delegation of the association to a meeting with Lt Gen A A K Niazi, the Zonal
Martial Law Administrator for Zone B (East Pakistan) and Commander of the
Eastern Command. The maulana gave a copy of the Quran to the general and told
him: “We are ready to cooperate with the army for Pakistan’s security and
to enhance the glory of Islam”. The General responded: “Ulamas
(Islamic scholars), madrasah teachers and other patriotic citizens can protect
the communications network and uproot the anti-state elements’. General Niazi
assured full cooperation to them in organising voluntary groups like the
village defence forces to face the Indian spies. After the meeting, madrasaha
teachers and students were inducted into the Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams
forces and given military training.
had direct involvement in the killing of eminent physician Alim Chowdhury. The
wife of the late physician, Mrs Shyamoli Chowdhury, and his younger brother
Abdul Hafiz Chowdhury informed the Commission that some members of the Al-Badr
had gone to their house on December 14, 1971. Prior to that, the Al-Badr men
had spent about 45 minutes at the residence of Maulana Mannan, the then a
tenant downstairs. They took away Alim Chowdhury who never returned.
In the third week of December, Abdul Hafiz
Chowdhury filed an FIR (first information report) with the Ramna police station
in Dhaka. Police nabbed the absconding maulana from the Azimpur area of the
city. Mannan gave a confessional statement that three members of the Al-Badr
who were his students picked up Dr Alim Chowdhury.
Mannan had a very close relationship with Brig. Kashem and Capt. Kayum, two key
men in the Pakistani army who coordinated the slaughter of the intellectuals.
The two officers had come to Mannan’ s ground floor apartment only a month ago
on the occasion of an Islamic festival at 2:30 am.
The story was
published in the daily Dainik Bangla in December 1971 under the headline
“Where are those three devils?” The History of Liberation War, a
government publication, recounts the story in its eighth volume.
The Razakar forces organised by Mannan
unleashed a reign of terror in Faridganj under the leadership of Khalilur
Rahman, an elected chairman of the local village council. They killed innocent
Faridganj people, raped their women, burnt their houses and looted their
Worst of all, according to popular accounts, Mannan’s men took advantage of the
situation to wipe out his political opponents, killing them after torture. The
Commission got the details of the torture and murders from Aminul Huq Master,
president of Thana Action Council in 1971 and the then general secretary of the
Awami League’s Faridganj chapter, M Abdul Jabbar Patwary and Abdul Awal, both
members of the action council.
In their written deposition, they said: “Maulana Mannan’s Razakar forces,
acting under his instructions, killed innumerable Bengalis in Faridganj
including Awami League leaders Abdul Majid Patwary, Haider Box Patwary, Ahmad
Ullah Khan, Ishaq Khan, Sultan Khan, Aminullah Khan, local primary school
headmaster Nibaran Chandra Das, Haren Chandra Das, Ansar Abdur Rab, Abdul Matin
Saut, Sekandar Bhuiya, Abdus Sattar Bhuiya, Upendra Chandra Kannaker, Jageshwar
Bhoumik, Mainuddin Khan, Abdul Odud Khan, Habibullah, Eshaq Mir, Akkas Miah,
Abu Taher, Ayatullah, Hashim Khan, Hare Krishna Das, Jagabandhu Das, Madan
Krishna Das, Nagendra Chandra Kabiraj and Govindra Chandra Das. Hasmati Begum
and Arafati Begum, both from the village of Prattashi, were killed after
Abdul Kader Patwary, son of martyr Haider
Box Patwary, of Keroa village near the Faridganj market, said that political
enmity between his late father and Maulana Mannan dated back to the time of
local elections organised by military dictator General Ayub Khan in the
mid-1960s. In 1971, Mannan’s men came searching for Kader. As the son was not
available, the Razakarmen picked up the father, the mother, the brothers and
sisters. All but father Haider Box returned home. After three days of torture,
Haider waskolled. Said Abdul Kader: “My father was killed on instructions
of Maulana Mannan.”
M Abdul Jabbar Patwary, son of martyr Abdul Majid Patwary, told the Commission:
“Razakars swooped on our house on the night of July 3, 1971. They took away
my father Abdul Majid Patwary to Faridganj (thana headquarters) with his legs
fastened by ropes. From 10 at night on July 4, they began torturing my father.
The Razakars uprooted his beard strand by strand; Later the Faridganj police
station officer in charge Oziullah told me that the Pakistani major contacted
Maulana Mannan in Dhaka several times after my father was taken there. The
major told Maulana Mannan at the time of first contact, ‘The man you wanted is
with us’. The last time Maulana Mannan ordered ‘kill him’. Around at 1 am. on
that night he was killed.”
Wajiullah, a businessman from Chandpur, also recounted the story of Abdul Majid
Patwary’s killing. He was also taken there by the Razakar.
On December 27, 1971 Maulana Mannan was handed over to Ramna police. He was
released after influential quarters had intervened. He went into hiding.
A report published on May, 1972 by the daily Dainik Azad and headlined ‘Help
nab this cannibal” said: Abdul Mannan, the so-called maulana (Muslim
cleric), a former general secretary of the Muslim League, a crony of the Peer
of Sharshina (a religious leader known as a hated collaborator of the Pakistani
army), an organiser of the Razakar-Badr forces, the mastermind of innumerable
murders especially in the Faridganj area, is still at large. He is the one who
organised the Razakar forces in Faridganj three months after the Liberation War
had begun. He had a hand in killing Abdul Majid, the prominent Awami League
leader from Faridganj, and Dr Alim Chowdhury of 29/1 Purana Paltan, Dhaka.
ANWAR ZAHID, a
leading member of the pro-China East Pakistan Communist Party,
(Marxist-Leninist) in the 1960s and a member in the cabinet of president Ershad
in the mid-80s, was a collaborator of the Pakistan army in 1971, and acted as
an intelligence gatherer for the military during the war.
The probe conducted by the Commission secretariat revealed that Zahid had been
working as an informer of the military since the 1960s. Zahid visited West
Pakistan in early 1960s, and held series of meetings with military intelligence
officials, and received a sum of 500,000 rupees as payment. This information
was given to the Commission by Nurunnabi, a former party colleague of Zahid,
and Lutfe Alam, a close friend. His association with military intelligence
became known within his party circles and he was later expelled from the EPCP
(M-L). But he maintained contact with leaders of the party and the EPCP (M-L)
later collaborated with the Pakistan army during the war of 1971.
Lutfe Alam, an advocate at the High Court, told the Commission that when the
National Awami Party (NAP) led by veteran left-wing campaigner Maulana Abdul
Hamid Khan Bhasani, decided to boycott the 1970 parliamentary polls, Zahid and
some of his friends resigned from the party. Zahid’ s complaint was that if NAP
boycotted the polls, then the nationalist Awami League would win, which would
lead to the break-up of Pakistan, turning East Pakistan into a province of
India. Pakistan military intelligence had similar analysis about the elections
and prospect of a League victory.
Zahid became an
active informer of the military once Bangladesh’s war of liberation got going.
Aktar Jahan Begum, the landlady of the house were Zahid lived as a tenant in
1971, said, “Zahid was fanatically against the liberation war. Officers of
the military used to regularly visit his house, and stay till late at night.
Our neighbours, frightened by Zahid’ s close association with the military,
asked my husband to tell him to go and rent another house. When my husband
asked Zahid to leave, he got very angry and threatened to tell the army. After
that, Zahid did not even pay his rent regularly. We could not say anything out
of fear. Since they rented a part of our house, and we lived in the adjoining
part, his wife and children used to visit us regularly. His wife Laili told us
that there were regular secret meetings with army officers and leaders of
political parties opposed to the liberation war in her house. Laili said Zahid
was particularly friendly with one Major Siddique Salik. There were other
officers, like Major Malik, Captain Chowdhury etc., who visited their house
son of the landlady, said, “I used to be friends with Zahid’s daughters
Shoma and Antu. They used to always brag about their dad’s friendship with army
officers. Shoma also said that Zahid used to have regular rows with his wife
over his hobnobbing with army officers. Shoma said her mother often called
Zahid a ‘killer’ and a ‘crony’ and other names”
Rahman Khan was a neighbour of Zahid at the time. His son Syed Ahammad Khan
told the Commission, “Zahid used to always propagate against the
liberation war and tell us to join the Razakar force. I used to visit his house
regularly and often saw leaders of political parties and army officers having
meetings there. I got meet Major Salik personally”.
It is apparent
from the above testimony that Zahid used to conduct his intelligence work
through Major Salik. Siddique Salik was top intelligence officer, who worked
under the guise of the military’s public relations officer.
journalist working for the daily Jahane Nao, a newspaper published during the
war period, said Zahid once organised a reception party at the National Press
Club in honour of this Major Salik. “Zahid was the first to invite Salik
to the press club, to facilitate gathering of intelligence about the freedom
fighters from working journalists”, he said.
Prior to the
liberation war, Zahid was the chief reporter of English-language daily The
People. The editor of the paper, Abidur Rahman also told the Commission about
Zahid’ s closeness to intelligence officers, particularly Salik.
During the war,
Zahid also worked as a supplier of provisions to the Pakistan army. This was
confirmed by Haji Selim, son of Sobhan Sardar, a prominent wholesale
businessman at Shyam Bazar, a major wholesale outlet of perishable items. Selim
said, “Zahid used to buy large amounts of goods from our shop. My father
told me that Zahid was a journalist, who was now engaged in supply work for the
army, after the army burnt the paper down. He collected all his supplies from
One indication of Zahid’ s anti-liberation
activities came from a small item of news published in the daily Purbadesh, on
Oct 12, 1971, which informed its readers that “the general secretary of
NAP Mashiur Rahman and former joint secretary Anwar Zahid met with leaders of
the Pakistan People’s Party in Dhaka on Oct 11 Monday. Maulana Kawser Niazi,
publicity secretary of the PPP said that the talks had been fruitful”.
It may be mentioned here that the PPP, like the Jamaat-e-Islami, also backed
the Pakistan army’s campaign against the people of Bangladesh.
MOLLA, currently the publicity secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami, was known as a
“butcher” to the Bangalee people in the Dhaka suburb of Mirpur during
1971. Mirpur at the time was mainly populated by non-Bengali Muslim migrants
from India, many of whom were among the most ardent champions of the Pakistan
army’s actions in Bangladesh.
One of the largest mass graves of people butchered by Pakistani troops and
their allies was discovered in the Shialbari area of Mirpur after independence.
Local people told the Commission that Molla was behind the killing of thousands
of Bangalees in Shialbari and Rupnagar areas of Mirpur during the war.
According to local inhabitants, Molla began his killing spree even before the
army had begun its operation.
On Mar 6, a
public meeting was arranged in front the Ceramic Industries plant gate at
Mirpur Section 6, to press for demands of the Bangalee people. As the people
raised the nationalist slogan Joy BangIa (Victory to Bengal), narrated M
Shahidur Rahman who was present at the meeting, Kader Molla and his gang
attacked the meeting with swords, machetes and other sharp weapons, injuring
many.M Feroze Ali, a resident of Block B of Mirpur Section 11, told the
Commission that his brother Pallab Tuntuni, an 18-year old student, was killed
on the orders of Kader Molla. The young man had been active supporter of the
nationalist leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s call for non-cooperation movement
against the Pakistan government from the 7th of March, and that was why his
name was pencilled into Molla’s hit-list.
On Mar 29, Molla’s hitmen kidnapped
Tuntuni from another part of the city and took him to Mirpur. The boy was then
dragged from one part of Mirpur to another, and back again, with his hands tied
behind his back. At a big playing field used usually for major religious
congregations, Tuntuni was tied to a tree and left for two days. Later, Molla’
s men returned and chopped off the boy’s fingers. On April 5, a week after
being kidnapped, Molla ordered his men to shoot Tuntuni dead. The boy’s dead
body was left dangling from the tree for another two days as a warning to
others in the area, before being taken thrown in a mass grave with seven other
bodies, Feroze Ali said.
Another eyewitness to Molla’ s criminal activities in 1971 was M Shahidur
Rahman Chowdhury. He told the Commission that Razakarmen under the command of
Kader Molla brutally murdered woman poet Meherunnessa in October in Section 6
of Mirpur. He said one Shiraj, who lived in the poet’s home, lost mental
balance at the sight of the murder. Shiraj still suffers from psychological
disorder, Chowdhury said.
Witnesses further told the Commission that Molla organized local non-Bengali
people of Manipur, Sheorapara, Kazipara areas of Mirpur into armed groups under
his own command. With these forces, Molla organised killings of thousands of
Bangalees at various killing fields of Mirpur.
Previous trial attempts
Immediately after the war, the topic of putting
the war criminals to trial arose. Just as the war ended, Bangladeshi prime
minister Tajuddin Ahmed
admitted to Professor Anisuzzaman that the trial of the alleged Pakistani
military personnel may not be possible because of pressures from the US. He
also told that India and Soviet Union are not interested about the trial. On
December 24 1971 Home minister of Bangladesh A. H. M. Qamaruzzaman
said, “war criminals will not survive from the hands of law. Pakistani military
personnel who were involved with killing and raping have to face
tribunal.” In a joint statement after a meeting between Sheikh Mujib and Indira Gandhi, Indian government assured of
giving all the assistance for bringing war criminals into justice.
By July 1972, Bangladeshi government reduced the
number of alleged war criminals from 400 to 195. In his book Liberation and
Beyond, JN Dixit wrote that the Bangladeshi government was not interested
about gathering evidence about the handful amount of war criminals. He was
uncertain about the reason behind this approach and figured it as a result of a
possible negotiation between the Bangladeshi and Pakistani government. He thought
that Sheikh Mujib did not want to do anything that would stop Pakistan and
other Muslim states from giving Bangladesh the official recognition. Worldwide
support in favor of war trial faded after the 3 nation agreement.
On December 29 1991 one of the known alleged war
criminals, Ghulam Azam, became
the Chairman or Aamir of Jamaat-E-Islami which prompted political debates. As a
result, a National Committee was established after a proposal of writer and
political activist Jahanara Imam.
Subsequently on 14 February 1992 “Ekattorer Ghatak-Dalal Nirmul
Committee” was formed to bring Azam and his followers to trial. 6 March 52
Muslim clerics supported the effort. An open court named Gonoadalot was formed
and on March 26 1992 Jahanara Imam read out the verdict against Azam. Following
the verdict Sheikh Hasina moved
a proposal in the house to begin the prosecution, but it was not passed.
far The International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 can be applied in Bangladesh
or needs any review
Because of the moral obligation to ensure
trial of war criminals, many countries of the world have enacted their own laws
regarding such crimes. In Bangladesh, the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act
was enacted in 1973 to ensure trials of war crimes, crimes against humanity,
against peace and perpetration of genocide.
The 1973 Act describes any action which
imposes war on a people, killings, rape, torture, detention, destruction or
looting of property or aiding and abetment of or complicity in or conspiracy to
commit these crimes, for reasons of political beliefs, religious faith, race,
language and culture, as war crimes, crimes against humanity and peace, and
The Act has provisions for the formation
of special tribunals and it makes it permissible for the use of newspaper
reports of the war period, written documents such as books etc. as evidence.
These trials definitely can take place under the International Crimes
(Tribunal) Act and relevant sections of the Bangladesh Criminal Procedure Code.
All laws relevant to the subject, which have been repealed in the past, be
revived and arrangements be made so that trials can take place under those laws
International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 has been protected by an amendment of
the Constitution of Bangladesh (Article 47A) so that the Supreme Court could
not term the Act unconstitutional for being counter to any of the fundamental
Furthermore an attempt to commit, instigates, and conspires to commit and
conniving in not preventing such crimes will be considered as crimes under the
The law contains provisions of constituting tribunals, (each tribunal
consisting of a chairperson and not less two and not more than four),
appointment of chief prosecutor and prosecutors, establishment of an Agency for
the purpose of investigation into such crimes, punishment and giving legal aid
to accused. The law also recognizes the right of the accused to appeal against
the verdict of the Tribunal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court .
The law makes it clear that the proceedings of the Tribunal shall be in public
(Section 10 of the Act). This is for the sake of transparency, fairness and
justice. Justice must not only be done but seen to be done.
The Act was enacted in 1973. In the 90s, Bangladesh has become party to many
international human rights conventions/treaties. Some legal experts argue that
taking into account of the provisions of the 1966 International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, in particular Articles 9 (arrest and speedy trial),
and Articles 14 and 15 ( the right of the accused), Sections 11 (power of the
Tribunal), Section 17 (right of the accused) and Section 21 (right of appeal)
may be revisited so as to ensure that they conform with provisions of
international human rights conventions/treaties.
Fact-Finding Committee (FFC)
setting up the tribunals, a fact- finding committee is set up whose task will
be gather all materials, documents in support of the evidence to be submitted
to the Tribunal. The materials may be collected from within the country or
abroad. In this connection, the UN can assist the fact –finding committee on
what kind of evidentiary materials are required for the trial.
In overseas during the
Liberation War, international community was involved in reporting and
monitoring the situation and there are many materials abroad such as possessing
materials of evidentiary values resting in broadcast in radios, human rights
organizations, university centers of genocide and human rights (for example
Tutgers University and Yale University in the USA) and individuals.
In the case of current on-going Camobodian war crime trial, some crucial
evidentiary documents that once thought missing were reportedly discovered by
the Yale University Genocide Research Centre. Bangladesh must explore such possibilities
to gather and collate as much materials as possible from abroad for trial.
Bangladesh must explore such possibilities to gather and collate materials for
prosecution from abroad.
Setting up of a Tribunal under the Crimes Act, 1973
The first one is
to set up a tribunal, appointment of prosecutors and setting up of
investigation agency. This is the easiest part to do by the government. The law
provides to file a complaint to the investigation agency and unless the
investigation agency is set up, no one lodge a complaint under this law. However
relatives can filed a FIR for a murder case against individuals under the
country’s Penal Code and in fact it was reported on December 15 1993, a murder
case lodged against some people known as war criminals in a magistrate’s court.
The result of the case is not known or reported. The reality is that the
tribunal cannot work until prosecutors submit the charges to the Tribunal.
prosecutors can only submit a formal charge until the Investigation officers complete
their investigation and a prima facie case has been made against a person. In
this regard,The Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, set up
one or more Tribunals, each consisting of a Chairman and not less than two and
not more than four other members. Any person who is or is qualified to be a
Judge of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh or has been a Judge of any High Court
or Supreme Court which at any time was in existence in the territory of
Bangladesh or who is qualified to be a member of General Court Martial under
any service law of Bangladesh may be appointed as a Chairman or member of a Tribunal.
The permanent seat of a Tribunal shall be in Dhaka: Provided that a Tribunal
may hold its sittings at such other place or places as it deems fit.
If any member
of a Tribunal dies or is, due to illness or any other reason, unable to
continue to perform his functions, the Government may, by notification in the
official Gazette, declare the office of such member to be vacant and appoint
thereto another person qualified to hold the office. If, in the course of a
trial, any one of the members of a Tribunal is, for any reason, unable to
attend any sitting thereof, the trial may continue before the other members.A
Tribunal shall not, merely by reason of any change in its membership or the
absence of any member thereof from any sitting, be bound to recall and re-hear
any witness who has already given any evidence and may act on the evidence
already given or produced before it.
If, upon any matter requiring the
decision of a Tribunal, there is a difference of opinion among its members, the
opinion of the majority shall prevail and the decision of the Tribunal shall be
expressed in terms of the views of the majority. Neither the constitution of a
Tribunal nor the appointment of its Chairman or members shall be challenged by
the prosecution or by the accused persons or their counsel.
The Government may appoint one or more persons to conduct the
prosecution before a Tribunal on such terms and conditions as may be determined
by the Government; and every such person shall be deemed to be a Prosecutor for
the purposes of this Act.
The Government may designate one of such persons as the Chief Prosecutor.
The Government may establish an Agency for the purposes of
investigation into crimes specified in section 3; and any officer belonging to
the Agency shall have the right to assist the prosecution during the trial. Any
person appointed as a Prosecutor is competent to act as an Investigation
Officer and the provisions relating to investigation shall apply to such
Prosecutor. Any Investigation Officer making an investigation under this Act
may by order in writing, require the attendance before himself of any person
who appears to be acquainted with the circumstances of the case; and such
person shall attend as so required. Any Investigation Officer making an
investigation under this Act may examine orally any person who appears to be
acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case. Such person shall be
bound to answer all questions put to him by an Investigation Officer and shall
not be excused from answering any question on the ground that the answer to
such question will criminate, or may tend directly or indirectly to criminate,
Provided that no such answer, which a person shall be compelled to give, shall
subject him to any arrest or prosecution, or be proved against him in any
criminal proceeding. The Investigation Officer may reduce into writing any
statement made to him in the course of examination under this section. Any
person who fails to appear before an Investigation Officer for the purpose of
examination or refuses to answer the questions put to him by such Investigation
Officer shall be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend to six
months, or with fine which may extend to Taka two thousand, or with both. Any
Magistrate of the first class may take cognizance of an offence punishable upon
a complaint in writing by an Investigation Officer. Any investigation done into
the crimes specified in section 3 shall be deemed to have been done under the
provisions of this Act.
commencement of proceedings
The proceedings before a Tribunal shall commence upon the
submission by the Chief Prosecutor, or a Prosecutor authorized by the Chief
Prosecutor in this behalf, of formal charges of crimes alleged to have been
committed by each of the accused persons. The Tribunal shall thereafter fix a
date for the trial of such accused person. The Chief Prosecutor shall, at least
three weeks before the commencement of the trial, furnish to the Tribunal a
list of witnesses intended to be produced along with the recorded statement of
such witnesses or copies thereof and copies of documents which the prosecution
intends to rely upon in support of such charges. The submission of a list of
witnesses and documents under sub-section (3) shall not preclude the
prosecution from calling, with the permission of the Tribunal, additional
witnesses or tendering any further evidence at any stage of the trial:
Provided that notice shall be given to the defence of the additional witnesses
intended to be called or additional evidence sought to be tendered by the prosecution.
A list of witnesses for the defence, if any, along with the documents or copies
thereof, which the defence intends to rely upon, shall be furnished to the
Tribunal and the prosecution at the time of the commencement of the trial.
Procedure of trial
The following procedure shall be followed at a trial before a
(a) the charge shall be read out;
(b) The Tribunal shall ask each accused person whether he pleads guilty or
(c) If the accused person pleads guilty, the Tribunal shall record the plea,
and may, in its discretion, convict him thereon;
(d) The prosecution shall make an opening statement;
(e) The witnesses for the prosecution shall be examined, the
defence may cross-examine such witnesses and the prosecution may re-examine
(f) The witnesses for the defence, if any, shall be examined, the prosecution
may cross-examine such witnesses and the defence may re-examine them;
(g) The Tribunal may, in its discretion, permit the party which calls a witness
to put any question to him which might be put in cross-examination by the
(h) The Tribunal may, in order to discover or obtain proof of relevant facts,
ask any witness any question it pleases, in any form and at any time about any
fact; and may order production of any document or thing or summon any witness,
and neither the prosecution nor the defence shall be entitled either to make
any objection to any such question or order or, without the leave of the
Tribunal, to cross-examine any witness upon any answer given in reply to any
(i) The prosecution shall first sum up its case, and thereafter the defence
shall sum up its case:
Provided that if any witness is examined by the defence, the prosecution shall
have the right to sum up its case after the defence has done so;
(j) the Tribunal shall deliver its judgement and pronounce its
(2) All proceedings before the Tribunal shall be in English.
(3) Any accused person or witness who is unable to express himself in, or does
not understand, English may be provided the assistance of an interpreter.
(4) The proceedings of the Tribunal shall be in public:
Provided that the Tribunal may, if it thinks fit, take proceedings
has been argued is that when the tribunal is set up, a pre-trial chamber (a
by ICC) may be established consisting of some members of Tribunal to
prima facie evidence with a view to finding whether there is a case to answer
for the accused.
The initiatives of the
present democratic Government
Bangladesh may request the International Criminal Court to put on
trial Pakistani forces for alleged war crimes. The alleged perpetrators of the
atrocities among the Pakistani forces were not in Bangladesh now, so Dhaka
needed international assistance to bring them to justice, he added.
we will request the world body to bring them to justice as many of them are
guilty of war crimes,’ said Tajul, a war veteran. He said the government was
going to appoint a body to reinvestigate the crimes.
Hague-based International Criminal Court, which came into being in 2002, is a
permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against
humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
inter-ministry meeting comprising representatives from Bangladesh’s ministry of
law, home affairs ministry, foreign affairs ministry and liberation war affairs
ministry, was held some days ago to examine the best possible way to bring war
criminals to justice.
than 80,000 officers and soldiers of the Pakistani army and the paramilitary
and police forces and 13,000 civilians were repatriated from Bangladesh after
their surrender to the allied forces led by the Indian army on December 16,
goodwill gesture, India – which had given all-out support to Bangladesh during
the war – unilaterally decided not to try the prisoners of war for war crimes
and released them under the July 3, 1972 Simla Agreement with Pakistan.
Bangladesh was not a party to the
state minister said that the government would do everything possible to bring
the war criminals, whoever they may be, to justice in a transparent manner so
that no one could question the fairness of the trials.
has formally sought assistance from the United Nations to ensure that
investigation and prosecution of war criminals can take place in conformity
with international standards.
also requested the UN to send a panel of experts to assist Bangladeshi
authorities, which are intending to try the criminals under the International
Crimes Tribunal Act of 1973, a law Bangladesh had enacted two years of its
The UN has also
assured Bangladesh that it would send experts to share their experiences to
help Bangladesh avoid possible errors as a few other countries are being criticized
for their mistakes in prosecuting war crimes.
18. preparing a white paper and seek assistance from International
may seriously consider preparing a White Paper on the reasons for holding
trials for such horrible and senseless crimes committed during the Liberation
War of 1971. A copy of the White Paper may be distributed to all foreign
resident diplomatic missions in Dhaka. Furthermore, the government may embark
on diplomatic efforts through our missions overseas to explain the need and the
popular demand for this trial to cross section of public including civil
society and media abroad, eliminating possible miss-perception that the trial
is a policy of revenge and retaliation.
To demonstrate the commitment to trial of war crimes, it is appropriate that
Bangladesh ratifies the Statute of International Criminal Court of 1998
(Bangladesh signed it) and the ratification will show to the international
community Bangladesh’s firm resolve that war crimes must not and cannot escape
Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide are the gravest crimes in
international law and are condemned by all UN members. The effective punishment
is an important element in the prevention and recurrence of such odious crimes
and for protection of the inherent dignity of human person.
The United Nations said that some of its top war crimes
experts would advise Bangladesh on how to try those accused of murder and rape
during its bloody 1971 Liberation War.
The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in power
since the beginning of the year, has promised to hold the trials as soon as
“We have suggested the names of some top
international experts who have experience in how war crimes tribunals operate
across the globe,” head of the United Nations in Bangladesh, Renata Lok
Dessallien, told AFP.
“This is the first time Bangladesh is conducting war
crimes tribunals and it is important it understands how other countries have
held them,” Renata said.
“There are some countries where mistakes were made
and we don’t want Bangladesh to repeat those mistakes,” she added.
She said the UN would also look into Bangladeshi law to
see whether it complied with international war crimes legislation.
Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed welcomed the move, and said the
government was expected to announce on Thursday that it would begin the
investigation into the alleged crimes.
“The UN will advise us so that we don’t make any
mistakes and so that the process is transparent and does not create any
questions,” the minister said.
The UN’s move was also welcomed by Amnesty International.
“I hope that the initiative to seek UN assistance to address the 1971 war
crimes marks the beginning of a process to heal the wounds of this war in the
national psyche,” said Irene Khan, the group’s secretary-general who is of
The alleged war criminals — who sided with what was then
West Pakistan — committed murder, rape and arson as they fought against East
Pakistan’s struggle to become the independent country of Bangladesh.
The government said three million people were killed
during the war. A private group, which has investigated the conflict, has blamed 1,775
people, including top Pakistani generals and local Islamists allied
Resolution adopted in parliament
committed against a person, is an offence against law and order of a State and
that is why it constitutes a crime against a State and State prosecutors
(public prosecutors) pursue a criminal case. War crimes, genocide and crimes
against humanity are offences against humankind because it denigrates human
dignity. That is why every country has an obligation under international law to
try individuals who allegedly perpetrated such crimes, irrespective of the fact
whether such crimes were committed in that State or not.
A person who allegedly commits a crime can always be charged until that person
is alive. Unlike civil litigation or disputes, length of time does not affect
crime. In other words, it does not have statutory limitation. That is why those
who allegedly committed genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes (grave
breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions) during the Nazi Germany more than 60
years ago are being arrested and tried. In Cambodia, Khmer Rouge leaders who
alleged committed crimes against humanity and turned the country into ‘killing
fields’ during 1975-79 are being put on trial after 30 years by a Tribunal with
the backing of the UN.
On 3rd December, 1973, a resolution of the General Assembly (Resolution number
3074) was adopted underscoring the obligations of member-States of the UN in
the detention, arrest, extradition and punishment of war crimes and crimes
against humanity. Bangladesh is a member of the UN and it is a duty of
Bangladesh to hold trials for such crimes.
Given the above background, on 29th January 2009, Bangladesh Parliament adopted
a resolution to try war criminals. On 25th March, the government decided to try
war criminals under the 1973 International Crimes (Tribunals) Act and
investigation as claimed by the government had already begun.
Role of International community
War crimes trial has international
dimension. It has been a sensitive issue for many authoritarian developing
countries because some of their heads of State or Governments adopt systematic
and widespread state-sponsored oppressive and repressive measures against
civilian population and political opponents and therefore they think they could
be indicted by the Hague-based UN International Criminal Court.
It is obvious that there are strong reservations of many countries for holding
trials for such crimes. For example, about 30 countries that abstained from
voting in the UN General Assembly when the Cambodian trial was put to vote. All
African and Arab countries object to the issue of warrant of arrest on 4th
March to the Sudanese President by the International Criminal Court on charges
of crimes against humanity in Darfur region of Sudan.
Case filed in Australia
A case was filed
in the Federal Court of Australia on September 20, 2006 under the Genocide
Conventions Act 1949 and War Crimes Act, alleged crimes of genocide, war crimes
and crimes against humanity during 1971 by the Pakistani Armed Forces and its
collaborators. This is the first time in history that someone named Raymond F
Solaiman is attending a court proceeding in relation to the crimes of Genocide,
war crimes and crimes against humanity during 1971.
22. U.S.A to transfer war criminals
States Senate has adopted a legislation titled “Denying Safe Havens to
International and War Criminals Act of 1999”. In where for the first time,
it has empowered the Attorney General, among others, to transfer international
criminals in custody for prosecution. The Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS) of US is denying admission or removing aliens who have committed
The process of trying war criminals has begun on April 8 of this
year with the appointment of an investigation officer and a public prosecutor.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has accepted a UN offer of sending a team of
war crime experts to help Bangladesh try those who were involved in various war
crimes during the Liberation War of 1971.
Law ministry officials said the group of UN specialists, having
experience in dealing with war crimes that had occurred in different nations,
might visit Dhaka shortly.
UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Renata Lok Dessallien put
forward the offer at a meeting with Law Minister Shafique Ahmed at his
ministry. Home Minister Sahara Khatun was also present at the meeting.
“We have offered Bangladesh to bring here specialists, who deal
with the war crime issues, so that the trial process of 1971 war criminals
meets international standards,” Renata told reporters after the meeting.
She said mistakes have been made in trials of war crimes earlier
in many countries. “The experts will share their experiences here in Bangladesh
to avoid the mistakes,” she added terming the process very complex and
Renata reiterated the UN’s cooperation in holding the trial but
said the trial would be of Bangladesh’s own, not the UN’s.
State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam said steps have already been
taken so that suspects of war crimes cannot flee the country.
Law ministry officials said a large team would be formed to
initiate investigation into the genocide that took place during the Liberation
War after appointing the investigating officer and a public prosecutor for conducting
the trial. The government has already passed a resolution in parliament paving
the way for holding the trial.
Dr MA Hasan, convener of War Crimes Facts Finding
Committee (WCFFC) says that there is enough evidence to try the war criminals
of 1971. “We have many victims still alive, witnesses to the atrocities,
documents and other evidence,” he says. Deputy Chief of Liberation Forces
Air Vice Marshal (retd) AK Khandker, former advisor of caretaker government and
human rights activist advocate Sultana Kamal, war crime researcher and human
rights activist Shahriar Kabir and many other experts are equally confident
about the availability of the evidence even after a lapse of 37 years.
“If it was
possible to try German Nazis fifty years after their war crime,” says
Khandker, “there is no question of not holding trials of war criminals of
1971 after 37 years.”
“I believe the
trial of war criminals of Bangladesh’s liberation war is not only the
responsibility of our state, people, country and government. It is a
prerequisite to create a just and civilised society. Those who have committed
the worst crimes in this nation’s history must be tried for the sake of
humanity,” Sultana Kamal opines.
According to Ghulam
Rabbani, former judge of Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, the necessary
documentary materials for convicting the collaborators including the killers of
intellectuals are all there with the home ministry. “Since the materials
are more than 30 years old, according to the Evidence Act those are to be
treated as ancient documents,” explains Rabbani. “No other evidence
is required as those at the disposal of the ministry would be sufficient as
exhibits in the case records, and conviction and sentence on the basis of that
are very much possible.”
Some war crime
researchers and leading freedom fighters think it would be better if
international jurists, other experts and especially the United Nations help the
Bangladesh government in the inquiry commission and trials as the UN has done
in the case of many countries across the globe. But Justice Ghulam Rabbani thinks
that if we say the trial will be held under the supervision of the UN it will
be a dangerous proposition because the country will have to surrender
“We have the
necessary Act namely the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973,” says
Rabbani, “now the government will have to constitute one or more tribunals
by appointing the members according to the terms of the Act.”
acting president of Ekatturer Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee (A Forum for
secular Bangladesh) has similar views, “We expect the UN’s role in trying
the Pakistani war criminals but now we are more concerned about the trial of
Bangladeshi war criminals.” Hasan emphasises on the terms of references of
the trial. “The UN can help us in many ways but terms of references should
be formulated by our government considering our social, political and historic
Some war crime and
legal experts say there is scope to categories offences of war criminals of the
Liberation War of Bangladesh as in the past few decades many new laws have been
formulated, adding new universally accepted definitions of offences such as
genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace. The International
Criminal Court and many other special tribunals in different countries have
dealt with war crime and have defined offences in different categories.
“We will have to
check thoroughly who were involved with the crimes during our liberation war
and under which category of the offences they fall,” says Advocate Sultana
Kamal. “We should proceed very carefully with a clear idea as the war
criminals cannot evade justice due to the loopholes in laws,” she adds.
Hasan points out the
importance of involving the UN as it can play a key role in neutralising
pressures from outside that may stand in the way of the process to try war
criminals. Says Hasan, “I came to know that when the caretaker government
expressed their sincerity to the demand of trial of war criminals, some
countries, even from the Middle East put pressure on the government not to try
the war criminals.”
Khandker, a newly
elected law maker from the AL, also a leader of the Sector Commanders’ Forum, a
newly formed organization that came into the forefront in the last two years
with the demand for trial of war criminals, says that an inquiry commission can
be set up under the tribunal and the commission would go through the existing
evidence and will investigate further.
says, “We already have the list of war criminals in Bangladesh and other
necessary records and evidence. We have many documents with the names of the
people who collaborated with the Pakistani occupation forces under different
names including Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams. Now the procedures should be
started to try them.”
Hasan expects the new
government would place the matter in the first session of the ninth parliament
to initiate the process to try war criminals. He thinks an inquiry commission
should be formed and be made functional by March and a tribunal for war crime
should start functioning by the middle of this year “as we can have plenty
of time to finish the long process of trial.”
Hasan’s stance is
clear about those war collaborators who did not directly carry out the crimes,
rather masterminded them or assisted the Pak Army in committing them. “I
think those who were not involved directly in the killing, rape and other war
crimes but through provocation masterminded genocide and other crimes politically,
must also be tried,” he says. He adds that amending the constitution we
can have provisions that those war criminals will not have any right to get
involved with any organization, politics and in any beneficiary post, but can
only have voting rights as citizens.
Public Airing Of Grievances
public airing of grievances in a non-criminal context could possibly promote an
atmosphere in which some kind of national reconciliation would be feasible.
Publicly acknowledging the torment and suffering of victims and survivors
can help in the recovery of their social and political well being as it helps
them psychologically and contributes to defusing potential cycles of revenge
Establishment of permanent reminders of the past, such
as monuments, museums, public holidays, and ceremonies together with support
group, provide a channel of non-violent expression of pain, frustration and
It is very important to establish a permanent
historical record that would inform and educate future generations to prevent
similar atrocities. Future generations must be taught about the dangers
of repeating the past.
Thus, documentation of genocide and identification of
the violators in some kind of public record at the national or at the
international should be done. Oral histories of survivors and other
witnesses can be collected. Testimonies of perpetrators and their
superiors can be recorded. Findings of the Commissions, trial
transcripts, or the perpetrators own documentations should be published.
to conduct the trial as a civilized nation
By bringing action against perpetrators,
their superiors and collaborators, a new regime can signal to victims and to
the whole community that the state no longer considers the victims to be
outcasts. The judicial process itself can also permit individual
survivors and relatives and friends of victims to tell their stories, to
document the torment and the suffering and to ventilate the feelings and emotions
that have remained pent-up inside.
Another important reason for prosecuting those who commit and those who order
genocide is that those who have been the direct victims will then see that
justice has been done. For victims, seeing their tormentors brought to
justice can have a strong therapeutic effect. Punishing the perpetrators of the
old regime advances the cause of building or reconstructing a morally just
society. Justice be done to put back in place the moral order that has
broken down. Justice be done as a moral obligation to the victims of the
repression. Post- genocide justice serves to heal the wounds and repair
the private and public damage done. It also acts, as a sort of ritual
cleansing process. A country in which such cleansing remains unfinished
are plagued by continuous brooding and pondering. Criminal prosecutions also
strengthen fragile democracies. Survival of the successor regime depends
on swift and firm action against the perpetrators and their follower. If the
prosecution issue remains untouched, other forms of social and political
disturbance may be triggered, with perhaps a risk of vigilante justice with
summery executions. It may also give birth to conspiracy theories in
which the leaders of the successor regime are labeled as the hidden agents of
the old order that they are treating in a too soft and ambiguous way.
prosecute may generate in the populace cynicism and distrust toward the
political system. Unless the crimes of the defeated are investigated and
punished, there can be no real growth of trust, no implanting of democratic
norms in the society at large, and therefore no genuine consolidation of
democracy. Prosecutions are seen as the most potent deterrent against
future abuses of human rights. A civilized society must recognize the
worth and dignity of those victimized by abuses of the past.
In order to safeguard the independence and sovereignty of
Bangladesh, it is necessary to bring these killers, collaborators and war
criminals to justice. Today, Bangladesh has a democratically elected government
in power. The government and all opposition political parties are talking about
establishing democracy in the country. It would not be possible to establish
democracy, rule of law or human rights, by avoiding the trial of those who
participated directly or indirectly in the Pakistan army’s campaign of
genocide, rape, arson, looting etc. On this score, the principal responsibility
to ensure trial falls on the shoulders of the government. Only the government
has the power to ensure the trial of any crime.
1. Liberation and Beyond-JN Dixit
2. Death by Government-R.J. Rummel,
3. Report of Evidences against the
perpetrators of 1971 published by National People’s Enquiry Commission, Bangladesh
4. The Killers and Collaborators of 1971:
An Account of Their Where about, by the Centre for the Development of the
Spirit of the Liberation War
5. Internatioanl law & Human Rights by
of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900 by Rummel,
Rudolph J. (1998).
7. Ibrahim, Nilima, Ami
Star Weekend Magazine of The Daily Star.
9. Brownmiller, Susan, Against
Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape
Ings and publications of various organizations working with the trial of war
Interviews & expert opinion of researcher in that regards.