War crimes campaigners as well as victim families have asked the government to increase the number of tribunals and logistic supports for tribunal, prosecution and investigation agency for accelerating ongoing war crimes trials.
They made the demand as only 41 cases were disposed in past nine years by two International Crimes Tribunals in which 95 people were convicted of war crimes and 32 cases are still pending before the International Crimes Tribunal-1 as the ICT-2 is now defunct.
Besides, the investigators of the War Crimes Investigation Agency submitted charge sheet in one more case and now investigating 29 other cases while 680 other war crimes allegations against 3,756 suspects are still pending for investigation, official records show.
Unless the surviving war crimes suspects were brought to justice speedily, the campaigners and victims’ families expressed fears that deaths of the accused and witnesses would make it impossible to try the offenders or do justice to the victims and their families.
They said that a number of war crimes suspects as well as convicts died after they were arrested and convicted.
‘Justice should be made to all the martyred and victim families by completing the trial. For this, the number of tribunals should be increased. At the same time, logistic support should be increased for the tribunal, prosecution and the investigation agency,’ Ekattarer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee president Shahriyar Kabir told New Age.
‘The trial cannot be continued for an indefinite time as the witnesses and the suspects are getting old. If the trial goes on the current pace, a time will come when neither witness nor accused will be found. So, the number of tribunals should be increased so that all the victim families can get justice,’ said Shyamoli Nasrin Chowdhury, wife of martyred intellectual Dr Alim Chowdhury.
‘To our experience, one tribunal can dispose of six or seven cases in a year. If the trials proceed at the current pace, the trials would never be completed. The trials should be completed speedily to fulfil the expectations of the victims and their families,’ senior war crimes prosecutor Zead Al Malum said.
He said that the government should take initiatives in this regard right now.
War Crimes Investigation Agency co-coordinator M Sanaul Huq said that they were yet to get all the manpower against their approved posts and had met with the officials concerned at the home ministry who had assured them of fulfilling the posts soon.
He said that the existing manpower in the investigation agency and the prosecution could handle cases if at least one more tribunal was initiated. ‘It will help to fulfil the people’s expectations and recognition of the war crimes and genocide that the victims and their family endured during war of independence.’
Law minister Anisul Huq said that the identified war criminals were already brought to justice and that the Awami League government will complete trial of all war offenders.
‘If needed, we will increase the number of tribunals,’ the minister said.
Of the 95 convicted war criminals, 69 were sentenced to death and 26 were jailed.
Six of the death row convicts — Jamaat leaders Motiur Rahman Nizami, Abdul Quader Molla, Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Mir Quasem Ali and former Convention Muslim League leader Fazlul Quader Chowdhury’s son Salauddin Quader Chowdhury have — were so far been executed.
The ruling Awami League made a pledge before the 2008 general election that the war criminals would be brought to book.
On March 25, 2010, the AL-led government constituted an International Crimes Tribunal and with the number of war crimes cases swelling the ICT-2 was created on March 22, 2012.
But, the ICT-2 was made non-functional since September 15, 2015.
Former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam died in jail while serving 90-year term. Former Convention Muslim League leader Abdul Alim also died in jail while serving life term.
On May 21, 2018 war crimes convict Mahidur Rahman, 88, from Dadanchak village in Shibganj of Chapainawabganj who was at Rajshshi jail died at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital while serving life term.
On September 17, 2018, a fugitive death row convict Anis Miah, 85, in a war crimes case died of old age ailments at his relative’s house in Fenchuganj of Sylhet.
On October 5, 2019, death row convicted Patuakhali war criminal Abdus Sattar Pyada, 76, died of old age complications at Dhaka Medical College Hospital while serving life term.
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