- Posted February 10, 2013 by
Notre Dame, Indiana
Seeking Justice for ’71 War Crimes against Humanity : Justice has been delayed, let it not be denied
Beginning with the start of Operation Searchlight on 25 March 1971 and due to the Bangladesh Liberation War, there were numerous human rights abuses in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) perpetrated by the Pakistan Army, with support from local collaborators, heinously known as Razakars, Al-Shams and Al-Badr forces. Time reported a high-ranking U.S. official as saying "It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland." Along with the members of Pakistan Army, Bengali collaborators indulged in massacres, killings and systematic cleansing of political dissidents and the members of the liberation forces of Bangladesh. This is one of the most heinous attempts, of quelling a popular uprising through guns, in the modern history.
Casualties and Violence against women
As many as 3 million people were killed, and some 200,000 women were raped, tortured and killed during the war. One particular revelation concerns 563 young Bengali women, some only 18, who were held captive inside Dhaka's dingy military cantonment since the first days of the fighting. They were seized from Dhaka University and private homes and forced into military brothels, with some of the women carrying war babies being released.
Killing of intellectuals
During the war, the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators (Razakars) carried out a systematic execution of the leading pro-liberation Bengali intellectuals: estimated as 991 teachers, 13 journalists, 49 physicians, 42 lawyers, and 16 writers, artists and engineers.
Bangladesh earned its freedom by the Liberation War – an armed conflict of about 9 months. The war started on 26 March 1971, and ended on 16 December 1971, giving birth to the independent country of Bangladesh.
The delayed justice
Forty-two years. That's how long we have awaited justice for the horrific crimes committed against us. After a few incomplete trials for the prime suspects due to political reasons, and inspired by lifelong efforts by millions of mass citizens who were leaded initially by "Shaheed Janani" (Mother of Martyrs) Jahanara Imam (1929-1994), the current government, in 2010, finally set up a war crimes tribunal to investigate mass killings in Bangladesh committed more than 40 years ago. As civilized people, we want justice to the families who were brutally affected by the crimes: killing, raping, torturing, evicting from their homes... we want justice for the Rajakars who committed crime against humanity by killing pro-liberation and innocent people in a mass scale and uprooting minority people by ethnic cleansing. They were more than infamous serial killers only found in literature. The extent of the crimes is so grave that it is almost unfathomable to one who is not aware of it, and ignoring the crimes is another grave crime against humanity.
Is justice for crime against humanity ever lapsed?
Outraged by a court verdict we consider too lenient, thousands of people took to the streets across Bangladesh on Wednesday demanding the death penalty for an Islamic party (Jamaat-e-Islami) leader convicted of war crimes carried out in 1971.
The nation yesterday saw the biggest gathering in recent memory as tens of thousands thronged at Shahbag intersection in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, to call for the capital punishment for the war criminals. An unprecedented movement, rekindling the spirit of '71 in our youths: tens of thousands of people raise voice in demand of capital punishment to war criminals, vow to boycott Jamaat-e-Islami for their perpetual activities in support of the alleged war criminals.
We paid the price for freedom, and are willing to pay more to ensure the delayed justice. To hope for a qualitative change in the country's politics, we believe the Shahbagh rally unites the nation in a way unseen since 1971.
Would you condemn with us for crimes against humanity?
We maintain that we are not against the tribunal formed to try war-criminals, but we want it work free of any influence, national or international. From the current destructive activities— damaging public and private properties and even attacking law enforcing agencies— by the people politically affiliated with the suspected war-criminals might influence the psyche of the tribunals. As happened recently, one convicted war criminal, known as ‘Butcher’ to the Bengalis in Mirpur area, is sentenced to a mild punishment for grave crimes. We want to vent that we stand with the tribunals and demand capital punishment for the suspected criminals as applied to Nazis.
We, the students from Bangladesh at University of Notre Dame, express solidarity with the movement, specially consisting of young generation, now on the streets of Shahbag, Dhaka. And, we demand true justice and capital punishment to the main suspected killer collaborators now on trial. Is justice for crime against humanity ever lapsed?
● The Washington Post