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How are the war crimes appeals proceeding?

  • Published at 03:48 pm December 15th, 2019
International War Crimes Tribunal
File photo of the logo of International Crimes Tribunal Dhaka Tribune

On October 31, the Appellate Division upheld the death sentence of former Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam for his crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has started hearing appeals in the war crimes cases from the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) after a break of nearly three years.

On October 31, the Appellate Division upheld the death sentence of former Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam for his crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. The previous appeal was heard back in 2016.

The delay in hearing appeals came in the wake of the judiciary crisis following the  events surrounding the departure of former chief justice SK Sinha and the corruption cases filed against him. 

The Supreme Court is currently processing the case of another Jamaat leader, Abdus Subhan, who has been sentenced to death on nine counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, abductions, detention, torture, and looting.

Prosecutor Sabina Yasmin Khan Munni thanked the Appellate Division for resuming the hearings and releasing the cases from limbo.

The prosecution said the tribunal announced verdicts in 41 cases for crimes against humanity, including genocide. Following the verdicts, the Supreme Court has disposed appeals in ten cases and six convicted war criminals were hanged after their cases made their way to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.  

According to the prosecution team, the tribunal is currently holding the trial of 32 more cases, wherein 202 alleged war criminals are accused of collaborating with the Pakistani occupation forces. Most of them belonged to the Razakar, Al-Badr, or Al-Shams forces. 

Prosecutor Sabina Yasmin Khan Munni also said: “We hope the government will amend the International Crimes Tribunal law quickly to prosecute Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party for its role during the war.” 

While Jamaat-e-Islami has been stripped of its eligibility in the polls by the Election Commission, steps have not been taken to prosecute the party as an entity.

The investigating agency of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has completed its investigation into 680 complaints of rape, mass murder, loot, arson,   conversion by force, and forced migration, all crimes committed by collaborators across the country. Currently the agency is investigating 29 cases of crimes against humanity. 

Respected historian Prof Muntassir Mamoon said: “The cases move sluggishly in the Appellate Division after the tribunal announces a case verdict. We think the government should be thoroughly committed to seeing  the whole process through.” 

The ruling Awami League party  is in its third straight term in power and the landslide victory in 2008 was precipitated by an election campaign where the war crimes trial was one of the top priorities. 

Since forming the tribunal, the trials have continued despite criticism from domestic and international parties. A second tribunal was formed in March 2012, but it ceased to function after three years.

The latest verdict was delivered on December 11, sentencing Abdus Sattar alias Tipu Sultan, 66, from Rajshahi, to death for war crimes. According to the investigating body, Tipu Sultan was a Razakar and member of the Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of anti-liberation Jamaat-e-Islami.         

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