The Economist has come up, again, with a second piece on Bangladesh in as many weeks. This one, like most of the past ones, is devoted to a critical analysis of the ongoing trials of the war criminals. The piece contains some truths and some half-truths, while most of it is absolute fallacy. The writer did not spend even a little time on research to find out the true story behind both the Eichmann trials, which The Economist analyst tried to portray as “Israel's model of due process,” and the underlying history of the current trials that is driven by national agony during its creation, which has never been fully addressed. The piece is typical of a mercenary writer where he just pens something only because he has to do it.
The ignorance of the analyst is so obvious that he must have taken it as granted that the prospective readers, mostly Bengalis all around the globe, are a bunch of ignorant people who will digest any garbage that comes from a weekly published from a Western capital. Let us first look at how he has glorified the otherwise highly controversial Eichmann trials conducted by the Israeli government, whose judicial system has never been a role model for anyone outside the so-called Western world, let alone for people of Bangladesh, irrespective of their
The backdrop and the landscape of the genocide committed by the Pakistani occupation forces and the Bengali collaborators on the people of Bangladesh are completely different from those of the Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany to a single religious group. The former happened while the Bengalis were fighting a war of liberation from the occupation of a single country, while the latter was committed when a worldwide war was going on for years. Yet, let us explore how the Eichmann trail was conducted in 1961.
After the end of WW II, Eichmann escaped to Argentina when Israel was not yet born. In 1961 he, not an Israeli citizen, was kidnapped by Israel's Mossad from Argentina. We wish our intelligence agency can perform a similar task by kidnapping one accused war criminal from the UK (would The Economist condone it?) and one from the US.
The tribunal was presided over by three judges, all of whom were born in Germany and immigrated to “British Mandate of Palestine” in 1933 when the Nazi party came to power in Germany. The prosecutor was the Israeli attorney general who was born in Austria (Hitler was born there as well), and the defense lawyer was a German who was never a member of the Nazi party as Eichmann refused to appoint a Jewish lawyer.
As per Wikipedia: “The legal basis of the charges against Eichmann was the 1950 'Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law'. However, Israel's claim to jurisdiction was controversial, as Eichmann's acts did not occur on Israeli soil, and indeed had happened before Israel came into existence.” In addition, legal experts observed that the process of Eichmann's trial contained many instances of “reversible error and procedural irregularities,” which would not have held up to appeal in a standard legal trial. For instance, Eichmann's defense team was not permitted access to all of the evidence to be used.
The trial caused huge international controversy, as well as an international sensation. Witnesses for the defense, all of them former high-ranking Nazis, were promised immunity and safe conduct from their German and Austrian homes to testify in Jerusalem on Eichmann's behalf. Yet, all of them refused to travel to Israel. That is so much for The Economist's 'model of due processes.'
Now let us look at the trials at home, which The Economist disparaged by calling it “another kind of crime.” In fact, The Economist is so bent on discrediting the trial that it has presented mostly unsubstantiated and ridiculous assertions, reflecting its absolute ignorance of the history of Bangladesh's birth and the misinformation fed by its clients. What could be more ignorant than when The Economist observes that “trials have been utter failure because most of the accused are linked to Jamaat-e-Islami?” What could be a more ludicrous observation? It was primarily Jamaat-e-Islami and to a lesser extent Muslim League that collaborated with the occupation forces and worked against our Liberation War. So in what way had it surprised The Economist that 'most of the accused are linked to Jamaat-e-Islami?”
The Economist is unhappy that “public discussions of the proceedings have been restricted. In one case, the presiding judge resigned and the death sentence was handed down by three men who had not heard all the witnesses.” Here again, the Economist resorted to utter falsehoods. The proceedings of the court have been open to public and the news media, including the ones which are all out there to save the accused war criminals.
The opposition politicians went as far as demanding abolishment of the tribunal. Could anyone contemplate demanding the same in Israel during Eichmann trial? In fact, two of the three judges heard all the witnesses and the third judge heard both the prosecution and the defense arguments all over again. The Economist accused the prosecution of kidnapping a defense witness. Who kidnapped the witness, a member of religious minority, is controversial. Would anyone in Bangladesh believe that a member of religious minority would be a witness in favour of any accused war criminal?
Lecturing the millions of Bengalis of the consequences, The Economist observed: “Sadly, most Bangladeshis are cheering the tribunal's flawed proceedings. When the court passed a life sentence (rather than a death sentence), the crowds that gathered to protest against this leniency were the biggest that had been seen in Dhaka for 20 years.” For The Economist's information, never before in our history, except during our liberation war, had a message reached the hearts and souls of the millions of Bengalis residing in every corner of the globe, including the Economist's backyard. At the end, the Economist correctly observed: “Everybody thinks that the defendants are getting their just dessert.” In fact, this widespread feeling absolutely concurs with the saying that “justice has not only to be served, but it must also appear that justice has indeed been served.”
The writer is the Convener of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh.