The International Crimes Tribunal-1 yesterday asked the Cox's Bazar police chief and the officer-in-charge of Maheshkhali police to explain “gross neglect” in timely despatching the death news of a fugitive war crimes accused that led to his posthumous trial.
The three-member tribunal led by Justice Md Shahinur Islam asked Zahirul Haque, sub-inspector of Maheshkhali police, to appear before it and give explanation over his “gross neglect unveiled in carrying out the tribunal's order.”
It also asked the authorities concerned to send the copy of the order to the inspector general of police “with the expectation of providing necessary guidelines to the officials concerned engaged in executing the warrant of arrest issued by the tribunal.”
The order came following a prosecution's plea to take legal action against the police officials for showing Abdul Majid Master of Maheshkhali, a war crimes accused, fugitive even after two months of his death.
Majid, one of the 17 accused of a case, had been on the run since a war crimes tribunal issued an arrest warrant for him more than two years ago.
Police on several occasions submitted reports to the tribunal, identifying him as a fugitive. In the latest report submitted on February 13, Zahirul Haque said he had visited Majid's house but did not find him.
In reality, Majid died on December 22 last year of old-age complications at the age of 85 at his village home. He was buried there.
Neither the tribunal nor the prosecution as well as the investigation agency was aware of his death until May 25 when the defence raised it in the court.
By then, the court heard the case, in which Majid was named as a fugitive twice.
The tribunal yesterday said the latest report and the prosecution's submission transpired that SI Zahirul Haque is “chiefly responsible for providing misleading information, in other words terming a dead accused alive…”
“The blatant inattention found on part of the law-enforcement agency had made space to go on with the proceeding against a dead person. It is frustrating indeed,” reads the order.
“The superintendent of police, Cox's Bazar also cannot absolve the responsibility of due execution of warrant of arrest. He should have concentrated due attention on the matter,” it adds.
On May 21, 2015, the ICT-2, now inoperative, issued arrest warrants for 16 war crimes accused of Maheshkhali including Majid. Police arrested three of them.
On October 8 that year, the investigation agency completed its probe and found involvement of Majid and 18 others in the killing of at least 94 people and other offences committed during the Liberation War in 1971.
The prosecution pressed 12 charges against them on March 15 last year and the tribunal, taking the charges into cognisance, asked the police to give reports on the fugitives.
On February 13, SI Zahirul reported to the court that he had visited Majid's house but did not find him.
When the tribunal was set to hear on charge framing in the case on May 25, defence counsel Abdus Sobhan Tarafder said he had heard of Majid's death.
The chief prosecutor's office wrote to the investigation agency to verify the information. Nurul Islam, investigation officer of the case, wrote to the officer-in-charge of Maheshkhali police on June 11 to that end.
On July 5, SI Imam Hossain wrote to the investigation agency confirming Majid's death. He also attached his death certificate.
The prosecution received the report on July 11.
Prosecutor Rana Dasgupta on July 13 told the tribunal that police had shown “gross neglect” in discharging their duties and sought punitive actions against the persons responsible.
The tribunal later fixed yesterday to pass an order in this regard.
A similar incident had occurred earlier.
Wazuddin of Mymensingh's Phulbaria upazila died of old-age complications on May 7, 2016.
But police did not inform the tribunal of his death until January 12 this year when a media report brought the matter to the fore.
The “unusual delay and neglect” in informing the tribunal of the death of the war crimes accused led to the charge framing against him in absentia on December 11, 2016 since the prosecution based on an earlier police report pressed formal charges identifying him as a fugitive.
Later, the tribunal asked the IGP and the SP of Mymensingh to explain police's “blatant inefficiency and neglect” in despatching the information.
It exonerated Mymensingh SP Syed Nurul Islam as he offered an unconditional apology and accepted the IGP's proposal to keep the tribunal informed about the status of the fugitives on a regular basis.