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Activists gather at The Hague calling for justice for Liberation War victims

  • Published at 03:41 pm March 24th, 2019
web-Activists gather at The Hague calling for justice for Liberation War victims
European Bangladesh Federation activists gather outside the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands on March 23, 2019 calling for international action Courtesy

Activists gathered outside the International Criminal Court at The Hague, in the Netherlands on March 23, calling for international action on war crimes perpetrated during the Bangladesh Liberation War

The Bengali community in Europe has been stepping up efforts to have Pakistan’s actions in Bangladesh in 1971 recognized as genocide.

Activists gathered outside the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands on March 23 calling for international action, read a press release, issued by the European Bangladesh Federation.

The statement said more than three million people were killed when the Pakistani Army used force to suppress an independence campaign, which was coupled with widespread sexual violence against women, including rape.

“Bangladesh cannot move forward until it faces its past,” said Shomi Kaiser, whose father was killed by the Pakistani army when she was a child. “The fight for justice is a long battle,” she said.

She stated that it was appropriate to focus the campaign at The Hague, because it is regarded as “the city of justice” due to its history of holding trials for crimes against humanity.

Dr Wolfgang-Peter Zingel from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, told the European Bangladesh Forum: “The genocide in Bangladesh was not an accident of history.” 

Drawing comparisons with the Holocaust of Jews by the Nazis, Dr Zingel warned: “If you want to prevent such atrocities from happening again, you must look in detail at their causes and record them.”

British political analyst, Chris Blackburn, said international cooperation was the best way to respond to human rights violations and noted that many of the issues from 1971 are still relevant to South Asia. 

“Some people say ‘let sleeping dogs lie,” Blackburn said. “But these are not sleeping dogs. These are dogs which are still biting.” 

The Hague also saw the screening of a documentary film, “Blockade,” which examined the response to the peaceful movement resulting in Pakistan’s course of violence in early 1970.

The film’s director, Arif Yousuf, said he wanted to highlight the support the United States government gave to the Pakistani army at that time, which he said was part of President Nixon’s strategy to contain Communism in Asia.

Following the screening, campaigners marched to the International Criminal Court, holding up banners calling for justice.

The Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands, Sheikh Mohammad Belal, said: “No other country should face the injustice and trauma that Bangladesh has endured.”

Father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,  who was assassinated on Aug 15 in 1975, had declared March 25 as a national day to commemorate the genocide.

The date falls on the anniversary of Operation Searchlight in 1971, which marked the start of military action in what was then East Pakistan.

The nation was renamed Bangladesh, after independence was declared the very next day on March 26 of 1971. Independence was finally won on December 16, 1971, following the War of Liberation for nine months.

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