International Crimes Strategy Forum (ICSF) lauds European Parliament’s resolution on 16 January 2014 (2014/2516(RSP)) for correctly assessing the overall political situation in Bangladesh surrounding the recent General Election and the trials at the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). The resolution, unlike some of the ill-informed stances recently adopted by some other entities such as the British Parliament or the US Senate, demonstrates a more clear understanding of the situation on the ground which is evident from the thoughtful recommendations made in the resolution.
It needs to be reiterated that on 7 January 2014, ICSF noted in its press statement the nationwide organised terrorist acts and the carnage that have been concertedly perpetrated by Jamaat-e-Islami and its affiliates. In the statement, ICSF called on the Government of Bangladesh to recognise as a matter of high priority that such widespread and systematic acts of terror and destruction are no longer a law and order issue, but something that was rapidly culminating into a grave human rights crisis. ICSF called on the Government to immediately declare Jamaat-e-Islami and its affiliates as ‘terrorist organisations’, as a proportionate and fitting first step towards delegitimising this whole outfit. Although perpetrated under the facade of democratic movement, it is now apparent that these terrorist acts were primarily targeted to derail the ongoing justice process at the ICT and the execution of sentences, given that Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party has also been declared by the ICT as a ‘criminal organisation’ in a number of ICT verdicts.
The European Parliament’s resolution has rightly condemned the severe nature of the killings and widespread violence that erupted throughout the country, especially the attacks on religious and cultural minorities and other vulnerable groups. The concerns expressed are sincere and genuine, which ICSF appreciates. Recognising Bangladesh’s tolerant society within a secular state, the European Parliament’s call to Bangladeshi authorities to provide increased protection for ethnic and religious minorities at risk and to ensure effective prosecution of all instigators of communal violence are indeed timely, which ICSF also fully supports.
Echoing ICSF’s position, the resolution has rightly stressed that parties that have turned to terrorist acts should be banned, which also urged the BNP (the former main Opposition) to unequivocally distance itself from Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefazat-e-Islam, specifically naming the two entities that are most responsible for all the terrorist violence since early February of 2013. In light of ICSF’s persistent demand to set up an effective mechanism to protect witnesses in cases before the ICT, ICSF strongly endorses European Parliament’s call on this issue. The European Parliament has rightly recognised the urgency of the matter in view of the fact that the prosecution witnesses and their family members have been living under constant fear having been threatened and intimidated in a number of reported cases including murder of a witness.
Finally, ICSF thanks the European Parliament for recognising the true nature of ICT being a domestic process in a sovereign country that has its own long standing legal culture and traditions, along with its time-tested modes of pragmatically balancing a state’s resources, the victims’ creed for justice, and the rights of the accused. As such, despite some perceived shortcomings regarding the due process standards at the ICT, which too is considered a disputed point of view, the European Parliament has prudently acknowledged the International Crimes Tribunal’s important role in providing redress and closure for victims who have been affected during the Bangladeshi war of Liberation in 1971 in the hands of the perpetrators who are now being tried.
Established in 2009, ICSF is an independent coalition of activists and experts comprising 13 organisations that are committed to end impunity, establish rule of law, and ensure justice for international crimes.