Speakers at a seminar yesterday called upon the United Nations (UN) to officially recognise the mass killings by the Pakistani occupation army during the Liberation War in 1971 as genocide.
“It is surprising that it [the genocide] was so much focused on 1971, and so quickly had become a forgotten genocide,” said Mofidul Haque, director of Centre for Genocide Studies, University of Dhaka.
“After the brutal killing of the Father of the Nation in 1975, we've fallen into a trap. There was a long era of denial and distortion of history. The issue of genocide became a kind of forgotten one,” he said.
He was addressing a seminar titled "1971 Genocide in Bangladesh" organised by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) at its auditorium in Dhaka.
Referring to International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, Mofidul said UN has been observing it on December 9 since 2015.
“It shows actually how long the international community has taken to recognise the gravity of genocide,” he said.
UN adopted the genocide convention on December 9, 1948. After that, there was almost 50 years of silence. There were no initiatives taken by the international community. But things began to change since the 1990s, he added.
Criticising the international community for their inaction in preventing genocide, eminent jurist Barrister M Amir-Ul Islam said, “We had 195 prisoners who committed war crimes but we could not try them. No one tried them.”
“On the contrary, there was lot of pressure, including from the UN, in order to repatriate them [the prisoners]. So it is more impunity rather than enforcement of law on the issue of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said.
Pointing out Myanmar's atrocities on Rohingyas as genocide, Islam said so far no action has been taken against them except telling Myanmar that their soldiers will not be able to visit USA. “These are the deficiencies of our international law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Munshi Faiz Ahmad, chairman, Board of Governors of BIISS, said it is known that Pakistani army in collusion with local collaborators carried out genocide during the Liberation War in 1971.
He said the UN should recognise all genocides, including the one committed in Bangladesh in 1971.
Adama Dieng, UN's special advisor on prevention of genocide, said genocide is the most horrendous crime.
“What happened in New Zealand demonstrates that no country is immune from this sort of violence... If we want to be able to prevent genocide, we need therefore to identify the early signs,” he said.
He also said, “My presence is not of course for [giving] recognition that what happened in 1971 was genocide… because it's not my mandate.”
“My mandate is to look forward in preventing genocide,” said Dieng.
He urged the international community to mount pressure on Myanmar to take back its nationals from Bangladesh, and praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for giving shelter to Rohingyas in Bangladesh.