CHEERS <i>Still a long way to go</i>
As the International Crimes Tribunal-2 pronounced its first verdict yesterday, Wasim Bin Habib and Mahbubur Rahman Khan talked to eminent citizens for their comments.
Air Vice-Marshal (retd) AK Khandaker, planning minister and chairman of Sector Commanders Forum, said, "We are very happy. We got the verdict as a result of our long movement."
He hoped the trials of other war crimes accused will be completed soon.
War crimes researcher Shahriar Kabir said the verdict can be termed the first step to victory for which they campaigned under the leadership of Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam despite many odds.
"But this is not the end; we have a long way to go."
Shahriar, executive president of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, said many consider Azad as a lesser-known Razakar, which is not true.
Whatever Azad did in 1971 as a member of notorious auxiliary force Razakar Bahini was part of genocide.
The verdict is important to understand the atrocity of Razakar Bahini and the need for trial of Razakar, Al-Badr, Al-Shams and their patron Jamaat-e-Islami as organisations.
The judgment also makes it clear how brutal the genocide was.
It's an example for the countries seeking justice for genocide. "There are around a hundred incidents of genocide that had taken place in different countries in the last century and many of the countries are waiting for trial. Bangladesh has showed the way."
Shahriar also said Azad might use his death sentence as a trump card. "He [Azad] may seek political asylum in Europe and Canada showing the copy of the verdict."
Therefore, he called for comprehensive diplomatic efforts to bring back Azad. "We have to run a campaign so that no country gives political asylum to those who had committed genocide."
Calling upon the government to ensure quick execution of the verdict, he said, "This trial is not for just any other crime like murder or rape; it's for a crime committed to eliminate a nation.
"The entire nation has been waiting for justice for the last 40 years. So the government will have to take the public demand into serious consideration."
â€œI am glad and upset over the verdict at the same time,â€ National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman said yesterday.
He was addressing the launching of â€œIndigenous Human Rights Reports-2012,â€ at Cirdap auditorium in the capital.
â€œI am glad because the verdict will end the culture of unaccountability going on in our country for ages, and I am upset that an offender [Azad] escaped dusting the eyes of law enforcement agencies.â€
Kapeng Foundation organised the programme.
"To me it is another victory day after December 16," said Ferdousy Priyabhashini. "I'm very happy to see the trial of those who stained our map with blood by killing 30 lakh people."
A victim and survivor of the 1971 war crimes, Ferdousy said words cannot express how happy she is.
The verdict brought an end to the nation's long wait, she said, hoping that the trial of the other top war crimes accused will be completed soon. "The nation has waited long 42 years and does not want to wait any longer."
Expressing gratitude to the government and the war crimes trial campaigners, Ferdousy Priyabhashini, also a veteran sculptor, demanded the government bring back Azad and execute the verdict immediately.
"It's a much-awaited moment in our life," said rights activist Sultana Kamal.
She said the identified war criminals are getting their due punishment.
"These people might not have been legally identified as war criminals for so long, but crores of people of Bangladesh know that they were war criminals," said Sultana Kamal, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra.
After this verdict, there is no confusion over the identities of these war criminals. "It's a big achievement for us."
"We have got a long cherished justice today," said Shyamoli Nasreen Chowdhury, another war crimes trial campaigner.
She expressed her gratitude to the prime minister on behalf of martyred families and hoped the trial of other war crimes accused, who were now behind bars, will be completed soon.
"Apart from fulfilling the electoral pledges, I hope, the government will rid the nation of stigma by holding trial of all other accused and executing the verdicts quickly."
Nasiruddin Yousuff, a noted cultural activist and freedom fighter, said, "Now it is proved that Jamaat-e-Islami is a party of war criminals."
It is one of the biggest days for the nation, he said, appealing the government to bring back Bachchu Razakar and execute the verdict immediately.
He paid his gratitude to Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam and Poet Sufia Kamal for their relentless efforts for the trial of those liable for the crimes against humanity.
Freedom fighter and war crimes researcher MA Hasan said, "It is a victory of conscience against crimes and criminals.
"If we can implement the verdict, it will be a landmark in establishing human dignity for which we fought the Liberation War in 1971,â€ said Hasan, also convener of the War Crimes Facts Finding Committee.
Mentioning the trial for crimes against humanity in domestic court as unique, he said, "If we complete all the trials successfully, it would be an example for the whole world."
He called upon the government to put international pressure on Pakistan to send back Azad to Bangladesh.
Saying that many others are yet to be tried, he suggested setting up a permanent investigation agency to probe those who committed crimes against humanity in 1971. He hoped the government will take initiative in this regard.
With this historical verdict, the four-decade-long wait has ended and fresh journey has begun, said Muntassir Mamoon, an eminent historian and a leading war crimes trial campaigner, in his first reaction while stepping down from the courtroom.
From now on, he said, the country will head towards justice from the culture of impunity.
Mamoon, the first witness in the war crimes case against former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam, said, "We believe what the tribunal has done amid its constraints is incomparable."
Terming the judgment a big achievement for a country in South Asia, he called upon the government to be more careful about the hearing on the appeals of the accused at the Appellate Division to avoid any disaster.
He suggested appointing more lawyers in this regard.
"We want continuation of the trial till a single collaborator remains alive," said Kazi Mukul, general secretary of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee.
For the last 20 years the committee has been campaigning for the trial, he said, hoping that the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court will dispose of the matter quickly once the defence appeals.