On Dec 6, 2012, the Chairman of the International Crimes Tribunal-1 (ICT-1) Justice Nizamul Huq issued an order asking two editors of Economist, the London based weekly, to explain the illegally obtained materials including bugged conversations and hacked emails that were in possession. Immediately after that a number of known pro-Jamat websites and Facebook groups started publishing excerpts of some alleged conversation that took place between Justice Huq and Dr Ahmed Ziauddin, a Brussels based expert in international criminal law. On December 8, the Economist published a blog titled “Discrepancy in Dhaka”. Right around the same time AmarDesh, a pro-BNP/Jamat newspaper published a transcript of the alleged conversation. The timing of the publications, both of the blog published in the Economist and the AmarDesh exclusive is curious as they were published almost simultaneously. It is important to note that no other pro-‘71 or neutral media platform published any excerpts of the alleged conversation so far. I carefully went through the Economist blog and the so-called transcript of the alleged “private” conversation published in AmarDesh.
While reading them, a number of questions came to mind:
1. How do we know that these illegally obtained materials (which AmarDesh published) have not been tampered with? How do we know things were not edited out or edited in to piece together this so-called damning evidence to suit the purpose and agenda of the hacker? How will Economist establish the authenticity of these recordings now since they are claiming not to be the one to have recorded them?
What is actually happening here? Amar Desh clearly mentions at the beginning of their transcript that they have obtained it from a source outside the country. Did they mean the Economist? They must have been referring to the Economist because only they admitted to be in possession of such material up till that point. Who did the Jamati social platform sites got their hacked materials from? The Economist? If not, then the case looks even worse for the Economist because that would mean that AmarDesh and the Jamati groups must have hacked these information and passed them on to the Economist which should have immediately put them on alert about the authenticity of these materials before they quickly jumped to run this story and contact a sitting Judge (Justice Huq). I think there is a good case for ruling out any neutral source as the possible hacker because a neutral (or an insider) source will understandably want to make the information public or go to the relevant authority rather than going only to the pro-defence, pro BNP and rabid pro-Jamat groups first.
2. According to the Economist blog, they are still in the process of investigating the content of the hacked material that they are in possession of. Why they then contacted a sitting judge (apparently ruling on a very sensitive proceeding) without authenticating their information first? How could they think that publishing or even contacting the Judge would be for greater “public interest” without even being sure of their authenticity?
What is more worrying in this whole fiasco is the question that what else have been hacked? The trial strategy? Other sensitive information and other correspondences of the judges? Information about the witnesses? Is that why a number of witnesses in the recent past declined to give evidence? Is that how one of the witnesses (Sukhranjan Bali) went missing? Have people other than the judges been hacked and tapped? Who would ensure their safety now?
3. Even if we take the transcripts of these alleged conversations at face value, what do they actually establish? AmarDesh piece insinuates pressures from the Government to have a judgement fast. Even if that is true, where is the wrong in wanting a speedy judgement? Many civil society members as well as other political parties have been voicing their demands for a speedy judgment. What we need to see is whether Justice Huq bowed down to this pressure and compromised the fairness of the process in some way. The answer to this question is a big no. If he had crumbled under pressure of the government, we would not have seen the tribunal taking three years to come out with a judgment. They would have come out with a judgment long ago. On the contrary, we learn from the same transcript that both Dr Ziauddin and Justice Huq specifically voicing their opinions in favour of a judgement that complies with the international standard and about ways to resist outside pressures for a so called speedy judgment.
4. Based on the AmarDesh piece, a known quarter is also trying to insinuate that the judgment has already been prepared by Justice Huq with the help of Dr Ziauddin but the transcript if read carefully, clearly shows that as an International Criminal Law expert Dr Ziauddin is actually discussing about the “structure” of the judgment NOT the actual judgment (i.e., guilty or not guilty verdict). And if the verdict has already been prepared (as insinuated) where is that judgment? Why did the AmarDesh, Economist or any other sources failed to show a single copy of that pre-written conviction? They have admittedly hacked the computers, so surely they would have found such a document if that had been really the case.
5. The Economist blog also raised the question that why during their phone conversation with the Economist reporter, Justice Huq did not mention that he gets research help from people like Dr Ziauddin and other experts and activists who have been working relentlessly to support the justice process. As an answer to this question my personal opinion is that he is in no way obliged to disclose this information to a journalist who approached him in an inappropriate manner. Instead Justice Huq wisely chose to reveal this information in an open court on 6 December as we all know.
There are countless people all over the world committed to end impunity for the crimes of 1971. We do not know their names, but they are providing a great and heroic service to this process from their own respective positions. They are not, and should not be, subjects of newspaper scoops or exclusives or any kind of harassments – our media should know that. If anything, they deserve our gratitude. Almost seven decades have passed since the Second World War ended. Hitler and his forces of evil were defeated and made to pay their dues for their crimes against mankind. We salute the heroes who bravely fought to make this a better and safer world for generations that came after that.
Do we know the names of those heroes who changed the course of the history? Do we know the names of those brave ladies who worked in the bomb making factories risking their lives and ended up being disfigured for life? We don’t, but that is alright. Not all heroes expect songs or laurels or rewards or any kind of recognition for their sacrifices. Because this is how this crazy thing called “commitment to justice” works. Like the millions that sacrificed fighting for our Bangladesh, these supporters of the ICTs have also worked day and night, making all kinds of sacrifices just because they hold their country close to their heart. You may call them crazy, but I guess that is alright too.