- Posted March 5, 2013 by
Shahbag Movement Bangladesh - Frequently Asked Questions - Part 2
Read part 1 : http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-936812
How can “phashi” (hanging) be justified for Razakars, but not for other crimes?
War crimes are different from civil crimes in that they are invariably carefully planned, and cannot often be established with proof that a person directly ‘pulled the trigger’.
That is why, in cases such as the Nuremburg Trial, only the top leaders of the organization committing mass atrocities were tried for symbolic justice, although numerous others were guilty of the same crimes. In this case, the Razakars under trial were the primary decision makers in the organizations committing the mass murders and rapes, and therefore need to be given the highest punishment under prevailing Bangladeshi law, if convicted.
The issue of banning capital punishment is a separate fight altogether, and needs to be fought sooner than later, but that shouldn’t prevent the highest punishment for these war criminals at this point, when the prevailing law dictates death sentence for grave civil crimes.
If Shahbagh is indeed a powerful, unrelenting demonstration of citizen power then why can it not take us to a world where a sentenced war criminal can be kept in jail forever? Do we not have enough faith in this movement?
Far too many times, the people of Bangladesh have been ‘betrayed’ by political parties, who have sided with war criminals and their respective parties for political gains. These criminals have also gone to the extent of becoming Ministers. All it takes for a convicted criminal to get out is a Presidential pardon, and the President in Bangladesh is a political appointee.
Should this protest be only for one demand? Capital punishment for war criminals? What about other pressing issues in the country? Sagar Runi case, Padma Setu etc.?
The Shahbag movement has so far been about a singular demand related to bringing under law all individuals, parties and organizations that led or aided the mass atrocities and genocide in 1971. Whether other demands come to the forefront is for us to wait and see. At some point of the movement, organizers made a statement that once the issue of trial of war criminals is resolved, they would deal with other issues too.
What about demanding punishment of all war criminals including Pakistanis and those who are now involved with AL-BNP politics?
At the peak of the liberation war, there were tens of thousands of active Razakars all across the country. It is not practical to trace everyone with evidence and try them. That is why war crimes typically are tried for symbolic justice, in effect prosecuting the top Razakar decision makers during the war.
Is the movement anti-Islamic?
Although the Shahbag movement has philosophical and ideological roots in secularism, the movement started off as a singular demand for justice for mass atrocities in 1971 and bringing under law the identified Razakaar leaders, parties and organizations. The movement, from the start, has been respectful and sensitive to all religions. On the 11th day of the protest, an online activist was brutally murdered in front of his residence. Simultaneously, a group of online bloggers (supposedly sponsored by Jamaat) started off a propaganda machine dubbing him as a propagator of anti-Islamic slurs, in an effort to try to undermine the Shahbag movement as a whole as anti-Islamic. Since then, the movement organizers have repeatedly and emphatically expressed their solidarity and respect for Islam and all other religions. It is widely believed that this was a shrewd tactic by the anti-Shahbag forces to jeopardize the integrity of the movement and shift focus and divide up support and sympathy for the movement.
Will the the banning of Jamaat be legal?
The Shahbag movement organizers are calling for a legal process which will prosecute all organizations that are identified as having led the mass atrocities in 1971. If this process results in the banning of Jamaat, it would indeed be a legal outcome.
Will the banning of Jamaat be democratic?
If the banning of Jamaat is done through a legal process under the democratic laws of the country, rather than through a decree, then it will be democratic.