PM gets war trial process going
Black Night revisits tonight
A long wait for justice is about to end today as the government announces a formal start to the process of trying the war criminals, just before the nation's 40th Independence Day.
The government timed the landmark announcement with the Black Night of March 25 that evokes the painful memories of thousands of unarmed Bangalees slaughtered by the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last night approved initiation of the trial of war criminals at her official residence Gono Bhaban, which will open a new chapter in the history of Bangladesh.
It was confirmed by Law Minister Shafique Ahmed, who told The Daily Star that on completion of the official process a gazette notification would be issued in the later hours today.
"We'll announce it formally tomorrow [today] in the afternoon," said the law minister.
He added the prime minister approved a six-member investigation committee to probe the war crimes and a prosecution team of equal numbers, which the government can expand, if need be.
The premier gave her nod to the proposed three-member war crimes tribunal, but her formal approval would come in consultation with the chief justice as per the requisite process.
The law minister said the three-member tribunal would be formed comprising two sitting judges of the High Court and a retired district judge with qualifications to be appointed as an HC judge.
The district judge is currently on leave preparatory to retirement (LPR).
"Formation of the tribunal will be finalised after the consultation with the chief justice tomorrow [today]," Shafique said.
After all these formalities the law ministry would send the file to President Zillur Rahman for his approval and then the gazette notification would be published in the later hours today.
The premier's approval came following a meeting with Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shafique Ahmed, Home Minister Sahara Khatun, State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam, Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder and a few other government high-ups.
Meeting sources say the government would use the term "crime against humanity" instead of war crimes to hold the trial in light of the international phenomena.
Trial of the war criminals of 1971 is a long-cherished demand of the nation. This demand is related to the birth of the independent Bangladesh, which the ruling Awami League had promised to implement in its election manifesto.
A source in the Prime Minister's Office told The Daily Star last night that the historically identified war criminals would be under special watch soon after the formal announcement of the required bodies to hold the trial.
"If necessary the law-enforcement agencies will arrest the persons who are widely known as war criminals as part of the starting trial process," said the source.
Inspector General of Police Nur Mohammad also bolstered the nation's hope as he told journalists yesterday about his force's preparations against the backdrop of the government's announcement to start the trial.
The police chief said the law-enforcement agencies are put on special alert across the country ahead of formation of the war crimes tribunal and other agencies concerned.
"Additional police forces have been deployed across the country, especially at key installations and sensitive areas, to ward off any untoward incident," Nur Mohammad said.
"Our intelligence worked across the country and we have taken necessary steps depending on their reports."
The memories of the Black Night of March 25, 1971 would again haunt the nation this year, but this time with a great relief as the government is set to formally launch the trial of the war criminals.
The nation last 39 years cried for justice for the 1971 genocide, which is one of the most tragic chapters in the global history of genocide. Finally, justice might prevail if the Awami League-led government sincerely implements one of its major election pledges.
Every year the Black Night evokes the painful memories of how thousands of unarmed and innocent Bangalees were slaughtered by the Pakistani invading forces in 1971.
On this night, the Pakistani military rulers launched the "Operation Search Light", leaving some 7,000 Bangalees killed.
The University of Dhaka, being the bastion of protracted struggle of the repressed of the country, faced severe wrath of the Pakistani army as students, teachers and employees were exterminated in their hundreds.
The occupation army also cracked down on the Bangalee police personnel and EPR members to prevent them from joining the armed struggle for freedom.
On March 26, the nation waged an armed struggle against the Pakistani forces following the declaration of independence by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The Pakistani forces arrested Bangabandhu as he, through a wireless message, called upon the people to resist the occupation forces with whatever they had.
Later, Awami League leader MA Hannan and Major Ziaur Rahman (later president of Bangladesh) read out the proclamation of independence on behalf of Bangabandhu through a broadcast from Kalurghat radio station in Chittagong.
The nine-month Liberation War culminated in emergence of Bangladesh as an independent, sovereign state in exchange of the sacrifice of the lives of 3 million Bangalees and rape of over a quarter million women and enormous unrepeatable loss of the nation, which was committed by the Pakistani occupation forces with the direct and indirect help of local war criminals and collaborators.