Bangladesh: Unflagging Determination – Analysis
By S. Binodkumar Singh*
On December 5, 2016, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 (ICT-1) handed down the death penalty to Edris Ali Sardar aka Gazi Edris (67), a leader of the Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), for crimes committed during the Liberation War in 1971. Sulaiman Mollah aka Soleman Moulvi (84) was also charged along with Sardar, but the Tribunal did not hold him responsible for the crimes as he had died of old age complications on October 26, 2016, during the closing arguments of the case. Edris has been on the run. Four charges including death in two charges, imprisonment for life in one and seven-year jail term in another charge were proved beyond doubt against Edris. The first charge that earned Edris death was for killing 200 Hindu people by firing shots indiscriminately on May 22, 1971, in Shariatpur District. The second charge that earned him death was for killing 20 Hindu people on May 23, 1971, in Madaripur District. The third charge that earned him life in prison was for torturing and killing Lalit Mohan Kundu and Shuresh Goon by stabbing with a bayonet in mid June 1971, in Shariatpur District. Edris was also awarded seven years of rigorous imprisonment on a fourth charge, for intimidating around 1,500 people into leaving Bangladesh between March 25 and December 10, 1971.
On August 10, 2016, ICT-1 had sentenced former JeI Member of Parliament (MP) Mohamad Shakhawat Hossain (62) to death, and seven of his accomplices to life imprisonment for war crimes. His accomplices included Mohamad Billal Hossain Biswas, Mohamad Ibrahim Hossain, Sheikh Mohammad Mujibur Rahman, Mohamad Aziz Sardar, Abdul Aziz Sardar, Kazi Ohidul Islam and Mohamad Abdul Khaleque Morol. Shakhawat Hossain, Ibrahim, Abdul Aziz Sardar and Mohamad Aziz Sardar were found guilty for their roles in capturing and raping a woman who was connected with freedom fighters and were sentenced to 20-year rigorous imprisonment; Shakhawat Hossain was sentenced to death for killing local Awami League (AL) leader Chadtullo Gazi after keeping him confined at the Razakar camp for four days and his seven associates were handed down imprisonment till natural death for the same charge; Shakhawat Hossain, Mohammad Mujibur Rahman and Mohamad Abdul Khaleque Morol were sentenced to 10-year rigorous imprisonment for torturing freedom fighter Nuruddin Morol of Chingra, while Ibrahim was found not guilty and acquitted; Shakhawat Hossain was awarded the death penalty for torturing and killing Malek Sardar, who was linked to the freedom fighters, while his associates Mohamad Ibrahim Hossain, Mohamad Aziz Sardar, Abdul Aziz Sardar, and Mohamad Abdul Khaleque Morol, were sentenced to life imprisonment; and for torturing freedom fighter Miron Sheikh, Shakhawat Hossain, Mohamad Ibrahim Hossain, Mohamad Aziz Sardar, Abdul Aziz Sardar and Mohamad Abdul Khaleque Morol were sentenced to 15-year rigorous imprisonment.
On July 18, 2016, ICT-1 sentenced Ashraf Hossain, Professor Sharif Ahammed and Abdul Bari to death; and five others, including SM Yusuf Ali, Shamsul Haque, Abdul Mannan, Harun and Abul Hashem, to life imprisonment, after finding three of the five charges pressed against them proved. Ashraf, Mannan and Bari were sentenced to death for murdering 18 pro-liberation villagers at the cremation ghat in Jamalpur District on the night of July 22, 1971; Ashraf, Sharif, Mannan, Bari, Hashem, Shamsul and Yusuf were jailed until death for abducting Awami League (AL) leader and Liberation War organizer Nurul Amin Mallick from his home at Doyamoyee Lane in Jamalpur town on July 10, 1971; and Ashraf, Sharif, Mannan and Bari were also sentenced to life terms for confining, torturing and murdering innocent pro-liberation people at the torture cell run by the Al-Badr force at the Ashek Mahmud College’s hostel for degree students between April 22, 1971 and December 11, 1971. The Tribunal acquitted Shamsul and Yusuf of the charge of abduction, torture, murder, looting, setting houses on fire and other inhumane acts around the then Jamalpur sub-division from April 22, 1971 to December 11, 1971, on the grounds that sufficient evidence was not produced to prove the charge. It also acquitted Ashraf, Sharif, Mannan, Bari, Hashem, Shamsul and Yusuf of the charge of confining thousands of people, and torturing and murdering them at Al-Badr’s torture cell at PTI Hostel in Jamalpur between April 22, 1971 and December 11, 1971, as adequate evidence was not produced.
On June 1, 2016, ICT-1 handed down the death penalty to Mohibur Rahman aka Bara Miah (65); and a jail terms until death to his sibling Mozibur Rahman alias Ranga Miah (60) and cousin Abdur Razzak (63), finding them guilty on four charges. They were involved with the Nezam-e-Islami (NeI) Party and had joined the Razakar force that collaborated with the Pakistan Army in the genocide of 1971. The Tribunal awarded the death penalty to Mohibur for killing freedom fighters Akal Ali and Rajab Ali and hiding their bodies on November 11, 1971, while it awarded jail until death to Mozibur and Razzak on the same charge; 10-year jail terms were pronounced against the three for the attack, arson and looting of the Khagaura house of General M.A. Rob, an organizer of the Liberation War; the Tribunal also awarded 20-year imprisonment terms to each for helping Pakistani soldiers rape the wife of Manjab Ali, younger sister of Allat Mia, the same day at Khagaura. ICT further awarded seven years of jail to the trio on the charge of abduction and torture of Ansar Ali, who was permanently maimed as a result.
Thus far, the War Crimes (WC) Trials, which began on March 25, 2010, have indicted 74 leaders, including 44 from JeI; 12 from the Muslim League (ML); five from Nezam-e-Islami (NeI); four from Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP); two each from the Jatiya Party (JP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); four former Razakar members; and one former Al-Badr member. Verdicts have been delivered against 51 accused, including 29 death penalties and 22 life sentences. So far, six of the 29 people who were awarded the death sentence have been hanged. On September 3, 2016, JeI central executive member Mir Quasem Ali (63) was hanged at Kashimpur Central Jail in Gazipur District; on May 11, 2016, JeI Ameer (Chief) Motiur Rahman Nizami (75) was executed at Dhaka Central Jail; on November 22, 2015, JeI Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed (67) and BNP Standing Committee member Salauddin Quader Chowdhury (66) were hanged simultaneously at Dhaka Central Jail; on April 11, 2015, JeI Senior Assistant Secretary General Mohammed Kamaruzzaman (63) was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail; and on December 12, 2013, JeI Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Mollah (65), who earned the nickname ‘Mirpurer Koshai (Butcher of Mirpur)’ was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail. 12 others are absconding and another 11 cases are currently pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, out of 22 persons who were awarded life sentences, three persons have already died serving their sentence – former JeI Ameer Ghulam Azam (91), who died on October 23, 2014; former BNP minister Abdul Alim (83), who died on August 30, 2014; and former JeI National Assembly member S.M. Yousuf Ali (83), who died on November 17, 2016. Another seven are lodged in various jails of the country.
On August 31, 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, reaffirming her determination to continue the trial of war criminals, stated, “We have completed the trial of Bangabandhu (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) killing case and executed the verdict. We are also holding the trial of war criminals which Bangabandhu started and implementing the judgments and we would continue it.” On August 14, 2016, five condemned killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur – Rahman Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed and Mohiuddin Ahmed – were hanged at Dhaka Central Jail.
Nevertheless, on September 8, 2016, Law Minister Anisul Huq cautioned “The children of war criminals are not innocent. They are hatching conspiracies and will continue it. We have to remember that and stay alert against them. We have to continue our war against their conspiracies.” Further, on November 9, 2016, blaming anti-liberation forces and aides of BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia for instigating attacks on Hindus, Health Minister Mohammed Nasim observed, “The killers and looters who don’t believe in Bangladesh’s liberation carried out the attack on the Hindus of Nasirnagar. The attack was aimed at demeaning the Sheikh Hasina-led Government and making Bangladesh look like it is not safe for the Hindus. The attackers will be tried at the speedy trial tribunal.” On October 30, 2016, more than 100 people were injured when an estimated 3,000 local Muslim zealots, armed with sticks and sharp weapons, vandalized and looted 17 temples and over a hundred Hindu houses and business establishments in the Nasirnagar and Haripur unions of Nasirnagar upazila (sub-District) of Brahmanbaria District. On November 4 and 5, 2016, another six houses of Hindu families were set on fire in the same area. Attacks on Hindus are not unusual in Bangladesh, but it is rare to see multiple large crowds targeting temples in an organized way as they did on October 30, 2016.
Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL)-led Government, which came to power on January 6, 2009, has shown enormous courage in going ahead with the War Crime Trials, and the completion of this process will eventually prove to be an important chapter in the history of Bangladesh, bringing some measure of justice to millions who had suffered at the hands of the Pakistan Army and its collaborators in Bangladesh. The Trials are the unfinished agenda of the Liberation War, and need to be sustained, despite efforts of anti-liberation forces and their sympathizers in the Diaspora and international community, to disrupt the process.
*S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management