War crimes trial campaigners yesterday expressed concern that the execution of death penalties awarded to war criminals by the international crimes tribunals might not happen during the tenure of this government.
They said legal complexities, provision for presidential pardon and time running out for the current administration were the reasons why it might not happen soon.
Addressing a discussion on “Immediate implementation of the verdicts of tribunals and what are the impediments in trying mass killers-Jamaat” at the capital's WVA auditorium, they said the 90-year imprisonment for war crimes mastermind Ghulam Azam was too little a punishment.
They asked the state to appeal before the Appellate Division for his capital punishment.
The discussion was held in memory of five people who sacrificed their lives on July 26, 1994, to resist a public meeting of former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam in Chittagong.
Shahriar Kabir, acting president of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, a platform formed in 1992 by Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam to raise voice for the trial of the war criminals, said legal complexities were slowing down the ongoing trials.
He feared war criminals could get released with presidential pardon. He said there should be no option for presidential pardon in the case of crimes against humanity.
He said the option should be removed before the tenure of this government ended, preferably in the next parliament session.
Saying that Ghulam Azam deserved the capital punishment, which the tribunal judgement also mentioned, Shahriar said the tribunal went beyond its jurisdiction to consider his age.
Shahriar made it clear that he was not challenging the judgment of the tribunal but was urging the state to appeal.
He urged the judges of the Appellate Division to dispose of war crimes appeals quickly. “We have waited for the last 40-42 years to see the execution of war criminals. Please don't make us wait any longer,” he added.
Eminent historian Muntassir Mamoon explained why the executions of condemned war criminals might not happen during this government's tenure.
“Only a sentence will not be enough. Full copy of the judgment will be required. There will be a review petition. Then there is the petition before the president. And by this time the government would be out,” he said.
“You can appeal [for quick disposal] to the attorney general but he [the attorney general] has nothing to do with it,” Muntassir said.
“A section in the government, state and us do not want to see the implementation of the verdict,” he claimed.
Shaheen Reza Noor, president of Projonmo-71, an organisation of the children of martyrs of the Liberation War, demanded the trial of Jamaat-e-Islami as an organisation.
Among others, Air Vice-Marshal (retd) AK Khandaker, planning minister and chairman of Sector Commanders Forum, lawyers Tureen Afroz and Rana Dasgupta, and Gonojagoron Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarkar also addressed the programme.
The tribunals had so far handed down punishment to six war criminals and gave the death penalty to four of them and jail terms to the other two for crimes committed during the Liberation War.