Putting the BDR mutineers on trial
THE government's decision on the modalities of the trial of those involved in the BDR mutiny last February finally sets the ball rolling. That is not to say that it has had an easy time of it. What with all the loopholes in the laws pertaining to discipline in the Bangladesh Rifles and the difficulties involved in invoking the Army Act in trying the mutineers, the government certainly had to operate within a number of ambiguities and constraints. At one point, it turned to the Supreme Court for its opinion, which in its turn sought the advice of eminent jurists before coming to the conclusion that the BDR mutiny could not be prosecuted under the Army Act.
One must now consider the merits in the government move. It has decided that offences like killing, attempt to murder, arson and looting will be tried under the penal code, with other offences such as violation of superiors' orders and breaking discipline coming under the relevant BDR laws. It thus appears to have made a clear distinction between those who actively participated in the tragedy and those who instigated their acts. There are the ones directly involved and those incidentally associated with the perpetration of the tragedy. Such a distinction will surely be in order. Even so, the fact cannot be ignored that those who played a behind the scenes role in the making of the tragedy cannot but be considered accessory to the murders committed on February 25 and 26 this year.
One understands, of course, that the methods of the trials determined by the government may leave the families of the dead unhappy and perhaps even resentful. The trauma they have gone through and are yet passing through is too fresh and raw to be forgotten or ignored. However, the bigger issue here is one of ensuring justice. Those guilty of the murders of February must be punished, but in a way that allows no scope for a miscarriage of justice. While we do not want that delayed justice should lead to a denial of justice, we are also conscious of the truth that hurried justice may quite possibly create a condition where justice gets to be buried through sheer mishandling of a case. The government has spoken of a speedy trial. The bigger thought is that it should be an expeditious trial that does not leave any questions unanswered.
A positive point that will surely emerge from a successful and credible prosecution of the accused in the BDR case is that it will assuage concerns about the trial outside Bangladesh and will indeed be a recognition of the country's justice system being based on fair play and transparency. Our state of rule of law will stand vindicated.
One last word. A good length of time has already elapsed vis-à-vis the trial of the BDR mutineers. Now that things are beginning to fall in place, let it be the priority for the country to see justice done and be seen to be done and then move on. Those who were murdered at Pilkhana will never come back, but seeing their killers pay for their crimes will be one way of easing our collective sorrow.