12:00 AM, February 18, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 18, 2013

No presidential clemency too

War crimes experts hail change in law but ask govt to amend constitution

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Staff Correspondent

Even the rain cannot stop them. All drenched and shivering in cold, Shahbagh protesters continue their sit-in chanting slogans against war criminal yesterday afternoon. Photo: Anisur Rahman

Eminent citizens yesterday hailed the amendment to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973, saying proper enforcement of the law could help try the war criminals and organisations and establish a justice-based society.
They also demanded that the government amend the constitution to disqualify the war criminals from getting presidential clemency.
The House yesterday passed a bill on the amendment to the act, which empowered the international crimes tribunals to try and punish political organisations, which were involved in the crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.
Renowned writer and journalist Shahriar Kabir said the amendment has opened the door to trying Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah as a leader of Al-Badr force and sentencing him to death.
He said only a provision to file an appeal with the Supreme Court against the International Crimes Tribunal-2 verdict of life term imprisonment to Mollah cannot ensure his death sentence.
Those, who had been involved in the attempt to foil the birth of Bangladesh, can be tried under the amended law, he said, adding that Mollah is one of them.
Shahriar Kabir termed the amendment a result of the movement of Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam, Shahbagh demonstrations and Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, and also a victory of the nation.
Congratulating the government for bringing the amendment, he said all the war criminals could be tried and punished now.
Kabir, acting president of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, however, said the government should amend the constitution to cancel the provision of presidential mercy to the convicts in the crimes against humanity cases.
He also demanded that the government incorporate rules in the act to make the ICTs permanent and give protection to the witnesses in the cases.
War Crimes Facts Finding Committee Convener Dr MA Hasan expressed satisfaction with the government move to amend the law.
He however said a provision must be incorporated in the amended law to empower the tribunals to direct the government to ban the politics of Jamaat-e Islami as a war criminal organisation. Besides, Jamaat leaders and activists, who were involved in the crimes against humanity in 1971, should be prohibited from running any other political parties in the country, he added.
The amendment will help uphold human dignity and justice through banning the philosophy of Jamaat, he said, adding that the political parties and their leaders who are creating obstructions to the trial of the war criminals have to be tried and punished.
MR Hasan said Jamaat and its student front Islami Chhatra Sangha, Nejami Islami, Jamaat-e-Olama and Muslim League had been involved in the atrocities including genocides, killings, rapes and arsons as auxiliary forces of Pakistani occupying army.
Almost all the leaders and activists of those parties had joined Jamaat after the independence of Bangladesh, he added.
Hasan said the political parties, including the Nazi Party, which had committed war crimes, had been tried and punished in the Nuremberg trial.
National Human Rights Commission Chairman Prof Mizanur Rahman said the House has discharged its “actual duty” by amending the law for trying Jamaat as an organisation for its role in 1971.
“It was very much necessary to try Jamaat-e-Islami for its role during the Liberation War. It [Jamaat] has taken decisions, executed their plans to commit crimes against humanity and other crimes in 1971,” Prof Mizan told The Daily Star last night.
He said the recent verdict of the International Crimes Tribunal-2 mentioned Jamaat's role in 1971.
“I am very much happy. The House has discharged its stipulated duty,” he added.
In its verdict in Abul Kalam Azad's case, the tribunal-2 said Jamaat significantly contributed to the creation of auxiliary forces during the Liberation War for combating unarmed Bangalee civilians in the name of protecting Pakistan.
People of the then East Pakistan wholeheartedly supported the war and took part in the call to free Bangladesh, said the verdict. But a small number of Bangalees, Biharis, other pro-Pakistanis, as well as members of a number of different religion-based political parties, particularly Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha, joined and/or collaborated with the Pakistani military to actively oppose the creation of independent Bangladesh, the verdict added.
"And most of them committed and facilitated the commission of atrocities in violation of customary international law in the territory of Bangladesh,” it read.
Valiant freedom fighter Nasiruddin Yusuf Bachchu expressed the hope that Jamaat would be banned through the trial, as the House has paved the way for trying the political party.
Anti-liberation forces such as Peace Committee, Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams were formed under the leadership of Jamaat during the Liberation War, he observed.
Along with the Pakistani army, Jamaat and its organisations fought against the freedom fighters and committed numerous crimes during the nine-month-long war, he said, adding, “So it [Jamaat] should be banned.”
He also congratulated the members of parliament for bringing the amendment.
Dr Shantanu Majumder of political science at Dhaka University told The Daily Star it was mandatory to try the organisation, which had committed crimes during the war, to ensuring “total justice.”
If the trial is held only for persons, many leaders might escape punishment, as they might not have had physical participation in crimes but masterminded those.
Mofidul Haque, one of the trustees of the Liberation War Museum, said the role and brutality of Jamaat during the Liberation War were proved through two verdicts of the International Crimes Tribunal-2.
“For this reason, people have been demanding banning Jamaat and the House has taken a positive decision, as the matter will be settled though judicial process now,” he added.

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