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War crime issue should not be politicised

Edit Date:7/26/2010 12:00:00 AM

Dhaka, Jul 26 (UNB)-The United States and the United Kingdom stressed fairness and neutrality in the war crimes trial in conformity with the international standards as the international war crimes tribunal here Monday issued warrants of arrest against four members of the top brass of Jamaat-e-Islami on charges of war crimes in 1971. When asked to comment, a spokesperson for the US Embassy said any individual arrested and charged with a crime should be treated fairly and accorded the full range of legal protections that meet international expectations for transparency, fairness and due process. “Such issues should not be politicized,” the spokesperson told UNB. He further said: “The issue of accountability is important. We are closely following the government of Bangladesh’s attempt to address issues of accountability.” The United Kingdom said it is important that the war crimes trials are seen to be fair and neutral, and that the process conforms to international standards. “We fully understand the desire of the government of Bangladesh and many Bangladeshis to hold to account those who may have been guilty of war crimes during the war of independence,” a spokesperson of the British High Commission said. The spokesperson also said the British Government “would wish to see all those arrested treated in accordance with international standards.” BNP With the Jamaat top brass arraigned and likely to be put on trial for the “war crimes”, its ally and main opposition Bangladesh nationalist Party (BNP) fears that some of its leaders could be apprehended. “The BNP ranks are worried that some of their leaders might be arrested on charges of war crimes in 1971,” The Daily Star said. The BNP top brass has yet to decide what steps to take if any leader is detained, unnamed party insiders said. Jamaat-e-Islami’s reaction Jamaat-e-Islami accuses the government of using war crimes charges to try to curb the opposition party’s activities. The next hearing in the case will be on 2 August Jamaat-e-Islami was a major partner of a 2001-2006 coalition government headed by Hasina’s longtime political rival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Two of the suspects, Nizami and Mujahid, were senior ministers of that government. Background: On March 26, 1971, Bangladesh – then called East Pakistan – declared its independence from West Pakistan, following years of perceived political and economic discrimination. Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation on Dec. 16, 1971, with the surrender of the Pakistani army in Dhaka. After the war, an amnesty was declared by independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – Hasina’s father – for collaborators who were not directly involved in heinous crimes. It did not cover those who had specific charges or evidence of crimes against them. It remains unclear whether the four Islamic party leaders have outstanding criminal cases dating to that time. Suspects including Jamaat-e-Islami party chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and his senior party colleagues Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, Abdul Quader Mollah and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman were arrested earlier on various charges including attacking police and blaspheming Islam. Monday’s arrest warrants mean the tribunal is allowing authorities to keep them behind bars for interrogation on specific charges of crimes against humanity. The government set up the tribunal in March to prosecute people accused of collaborating with the Pakistani army in killings and other crimes during the 1971 war that culminated in Bangladesh ceding from Pakistan and winning independence.

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