Convention of Sector Commanders’ Forum, Photo:Banglar Chokh
[An E-Bangladesh Report]
Sector Commanders’ Forum have asked the government to immediately initiate process for trial of the hated war criminals, who perpetrated the history’s worst ever genocide during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971.
‘As the government itself realised that the trial of the war criminals should take place and people from different strata lauded their voices for the same, the demands for trial of the war criminals seemed very logical,’ Habibur Rahman, former chief of the 1996 caretaker administration, told a convention organised by the Sector Commanders’ Forum on Friday.
He expressed solidarity with the forum’s demand to form a war crime tribunal and an enquiry commission under the tribunal, which he believes would help get guideline from the United Nations and other international community to try war criminals in Bangladesh.
‘The government should take immediate initiatives to try the criminals,’ he said.
The convention, held at the Bangladesh China Friendship Conference Centre and attended by nearly 2000 people, adopted a 16-point declaration including asking the government to begin the process for trial of the criminals who committed crime against humanity.
It also urged all concerned to carry forward the ongoing movement until the trial of the war criminals takes place.
The SCF’s demand for war criminals’ trial came following two leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, the religion-based party opposed Bangladesh’s existence, made audacious comment in October last year that there has been no war criminal in the country and the 1971 war was a ‘civil war’.
Freedom fighters, progressive political forces, and the free thinkers asked the interim government to try the war criminals after the comments made by the Jamaat leaders, who with many others were rehabilitated in politics with the patron of the then administration in post-1975 period.
The head of interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, however, responded positively with a belief that the criminals should be brought to justice. But he expressed that his administration’s lack of ability to begin the process as he is burdened with so many things to conduct a free and fair election.
The sector commanders, in this context, organised six conventions in divisional headquarters to drum up support for trial of the war criminals, process of which was originally began in 1972 and stopped abruptly after the assignation of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975.
A total of 37,000 war criminals were arrested between 1972 and 1975, said Air-Vice Marshal (Retd) AK Khandaker, one of the sector commanders of the liberation war, who took leading role in uniting the freedom fighters now to raise voice to try the collaborators of Pakistani forces 1971.
Twenty-six thousands of the detainees with records of minor offence, were pardoned under a general amnesty announced by Mujib government.
But the trial process of 11,000 others, who were directly linked with killing, rape, arson and looting, was on. Among them 752 were handed down with sentences after the trial under the Collaborators Act 1972 and the International Crime (Tribunals) Act 1973, he said.
‘But, unfortunately, after the assassination of Bangabandhu (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) the ruling general Ziaur Rahman halted the process of trial of the war criminals by scrapping the Collaborators Act, resulting in rehabilitation of the hated criminals in the society,’ said Khandaker the chairman of the forum while addressing the convention.
‘The nation today seems united on barring the war criminals from all elections. The war criminals’ trials should be held as soon as possible to ensure justice and holding free and fair national polls,’ he said urging all to join hands in the movement of holding the war criminals’ trials.
The convention was attended by senior political leaders, Liberation War sector commanders, freedom fighters from home and abroad, intellectuals, teachers, students, civil society representatives and professionals.
He said the war criminals and their followers have continuously been attacking the constitution and the history of Bangladesh’s liberation. Even they did not seek pardon to the nation for the misdeeds they committed during the war.
Sector Commanders Abu Osman Chowdhury, Quazi Nuruzzaman, C R Datta, Mir Shawkat Ali and K M Shafi Ullah, and professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Professor Anisuzzaman, Mizanur Rahman, MA Hasan and former army chief Harun Or Rashid, also the coordinator of the forum spoke on the inaugural session.
They said that the present government has taken many a good initiatives to clean up the country’s politics and establish rule of law.
The government must try the war criminals. If the big criminals are not brought to justice, the people will never be respectful to the law, said Sirajul Islam Chowdhury.
Since the crime was against the state, the responsibility to bring the criminals to book lay with the government, said Anisuzzaman. ‘I hope the government will come forward soon to ensure justice.’
Quazi Nuruzzaman criticised successive governments for not taking the move to bring the war criminals to book since 1990 although all the parties pledged to do so. He believes the governments will never do it unless the people create pressure on them. He called upon all the progressive people to launch movement and compel the government to take up the issue seriously.
C R Datta called upon the freedom fighters to get united narrowing the petty political differences and carry forward the movement until the war criminals are tried.
Mir Shawkat Ali believes that the level of corruption could not be so endemic in society if all the injustices were addressed as per the law. ‘We hope this government will ensure justice to the freedom fighters through the trial of the war criminals’.
K M Shafiullah said Bangladeshi citizenship of the war criminals should be scrapped as they do not believe in the existing of the country. He called upon for a movement to reject the anti-liberation forces at every stage of the society.
AK Khandaker said the people must hold the trial of the war criminals as soon as possible, because we will not call off this movement till the trials are held in Bangladesh’s soil.
Although initially turned down, the government later allowed the forum to hold the convention at the BCFCC. Security was stepped up on the occasion.
Bangladesh must be able to accomplish the trial of the war criminals when the other countries were accomplishing it too, said the former army chief Harun. ‘If we fail to do so all our anti-graft work and words will seem futile,’ he added.