Written byRayhan Rashid

It is time to start proceedings against the Pakistani War criminals as well. We, on behalf of ICSF, demand proceedings be brought against the Pakistani War Criminals of 1971 immediately. It will be an interesting test to observe how sincere this so-called ‘international community’ really is! Ironically, it is this very international community that tolerated the genocide in 1971; same community that stayed content doing nothing to bring the perpetrators before justice for four decades flouting their moral and legal obligations; it is the same community that is now so disproportionately vocal and active to protect the lives of convicted war criminals.

Bottom line: If the Government of Pakistan does not cooperate (which is likely) with handing over the alleged Pakistani war criminals who are still alive, then the International Crimes Tribunal can always move forward, as a last resort, trying them ‘in absentia’. It needs to be noted that there is no legal bar to try the Pakistani war criminals. International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 vests jurisdiction in the ICT to try them. In fact, under International law, it is not only the right of Bangladesh to initiate proceedings against the Pakistani war criminals, it is also an obligation to do so.

A few facts that we should all know (found from WikiLeaks, personal communications, and newspaper sources):

– In 2009, Bangladesh sought international assistance, particularly from the UN, in terms of technical capacity building and support – in order to ensure that the quality of the trial is enhanced.

– Pakistan successfully lobbied at the UN against Bangladesh’s trial initiative. They demanded that UN should not be involved in this, at all.

– The Pakistani Ambassador lobbied with the US Ambassador in Bangladesh that ‘it would open up other issues such as the question of genocide’. US Ambassador, interestingly, gave up on the trial even before it started. He argued (in his briefing) against UN involvement in these words: ‘UN involvement could also be used to lend legitimacy – and urgency – to a process that could nevertheless end up being politicized.’

– The Pakistani Ambassador lobbied with the French Ambassador and argued the same. The French Ambassador agreed and confirmed that they were ‘disinclined to do anything that would cause additional problems for Pakistan.’

– UN conceded to these lobbying and eventually decided against any real assistance to Bangladesh trial except some minor insignificant assistance in the form of seminars, tours etc from time to time.

In light of the above, it is surreal to hear UN’s Navi Pillay and others clamouring to save convicted war criminals in Bangladesh!

Rayhan Rashid
On behalf of ICSF