Much ado about nothing

Much ado about nothing

The recent arrest of two alleged Razakars in Rajshahi apparently gives the impression that the government has started the process of war criminals’ trial, although it has yet to make a formal move to that end.

The home minister’s reaction to the arrest has appeared as a beacon of hope to the people, who have long been demanding the trial of war criminals.

But the police say they have made the arrests in connection with a murder case filed last year and have little to do with war crime.

Sources in the law and home ministries say the decision to start the trial must come from the cabinet first. Before that the modus operandi needs to be discussed among the government agencies responsible to implement the whole trial process.

Police on Friday arrested Daud Hossain and Noor e Anwar in Bamundighi Berabari in Mohanpur in connection with a war crime case filed with the local police station last year.

The arrestees are originally accused in a murder case filed under section 302 and 34 of the penal code, says a policeman in Rajshahi. But the murder was committed on November 30, 1971.

[click following link to watch some reports on war criminal ]

Khoda Newaz, investigation officer in the case, told The Daily Star last night, “We are not investigating any war crimes here.”

“But as the offences were committed during the Liberation War and Razakars were involved in the killings of 15 martyrs so we cannot absolutely rule out the possibility of war crime. But there is no such law to investigate the offence as war crime and so we’re investigating it as a murder case,” he elaborated.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun has earlier expressed satisfaction following the arrests of the two alleged Razakars, members of an auxiliary armed force constituted by civilians under the leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami to help Pakistani occupation forces commit genocide.

The arrest and the home minister’s remarks have pinned the people’s hopes on the trial of war criminals, which is also an election pledge of the ruling Awami League.

State Minister of Liberation War affairs ABM Tajul Islam told The Daily Star he thinks the police considered it as war crime just because the offence was committed during the Liberation War.

“It’s just the reflection of public perception about the trial of war criminals,” Tajul added.

Lt Gen (retd) Harun-ur Rashid, chief coordinator of the Sector Commanders Forum, told The Daily Star, “We cannot say right now that the process of trying war criminals has started.”

“Police arrested two persons in Rajshahi in a case under the existing penal code for trying criminal offences, but war crime is a special kind of offences which should be tried under a special tribunal,” he said.

Harun added, “Though the offences of the case in Rajshahi were committed during the Liberation War the case was filed last year as a civil murder case.”

“As long as a special tribunal is not formed to try the war criminals where the state would be complainant, we cannot say the trial process has started,” Harun observed.

Trying the war criminals is one of the top five election pledges of the present government. Even after wining the elections and forming the government Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and many of her cabinet colleagues reiterated the government’s stance on the issue.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun even said last month the government has taken steps so that the war criminals cannot escape the country.

A resolution has also been passed unanimously in parliament for trying the war criminals following a proposal placed before the House by a ruling party lawmaker.

Despite all these, no major progress has been made to start the process of trial, say sources concerned in the government.

Police sources also say there is no official list of war criminals with which they can stop them from fleeing the country.

Meanwhile, sources say in different cabinet meetings the issue of trying war criminals has been discussed informally without having it on the agenda.

But no formal discussion has been made in the cabinet, the sources say, adding the issue is likely to come up at today’s cabinet meeting. But the discussions are mainly limited to the possible options of starting the process.

The ministers concerned and legal experts on different occasions informally discussed whether the trial should be held under the International Crimes Tribunals Act, 1973 or whether the law should be amended or new law should be formulated, sources say.

They also discussed whether an enquiry commission should be set up first and a tribunal constituted on completion of enquiry, the sources add.

original source

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