Trying War Criminals

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A recent comment by the Secretary-General of Jamaat-E-Islami that there are no war criminals in Bangladesh sparked off again the old debate of trying the war criminals and collaborators of the Independence War.

After the war a general amnesty was granted but it was not applicable to persons against whom there were specific criminal allegations. But subsequently no one was tried. The International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 remains in force and empowers the government to set up a tribunal and investigation commission to investigate and try war crimes. Under the Bangladeshi criminal law there is no limitation period and as such individuals can still file complaints with the police.

However, ever since Independence this issue had remained mostly political. The country has seen both Awami League and BNP in government multiple times during the last 37 years, both of which claim themselves as pro-liberation parties. None of them had taken any attempt to set up a tribunal or investigation commission. On the contrary, it had been alleged that they have more or less profited by this issue one way or the other.

All though it appears that there is no legal bar in trying war criminals now, after 37 years, practical and political implications would probably again refrain the government from taking any steps.

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