Campaigners expect no further delay as five years have elapsed since the demand was made
The International Crimes Tribunal Act will be amended soon to try Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party for crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, Law Minister Anisul Huq said yesterday.
"As per the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the draft of the amended law will be sent to the cabinet division," said Anisul Huq.
The initiative to amend the law has been taken so that Jamaat can be brought under trial as a political party for its role in 1971, added the minister while addressing reporters at the Secretariat.
The minister’s remark came as a hope for campaigners seeking justice for war crimes committed in 1971.
The government first took the initiative to amend the law nearly five years ago as the existing law does not have any provision to bring any organisation involved in war crimes under trial.
Despite repeated assurance from the law minister since 2014, the amendment did not come into effect yet.
During the 2008 general election, the Awami League pledged to try the war criminals if it comes to power. It won the race with an over two-third majority in parliament and it took the government a little over a year to set up the trial process.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 (ICT) was formed in March 25, 2010 and second tribunal was formed in March 2012. However the second tribunal remained non-functional since September 2015.
Since then, judgments have been given in cases against most of the top war criminals, including several keyleaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a party which openly opposed Bangladesh's independence, have already been convicted of crimes against humanity in 1971.
International Crimes Tribunal coordinator Abdul Hannan Khan said, “Most of the Supreme Court and High Court judgments named the Jamaat as a criminal organisation involved with crimes against humanity. I am surprised why the amendment has not been made despite repeated requests.”
The ICT coordinator explained that a probe report was submitted to prosecution in March 2014 recommending a ban on the Jamaat and six other organisations including the Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS), Shanti Committee, Razakar Bahini, Al-Badr Bahini, Al-Shams Bahini.
“Not only the probe report is ready, but also the registration of the Jamaat as a political party has already been cancelled which means 75% of the job has been done. There is no complication anymore,” he added.
The ICT coordinator demanded an immediate move to amend the law without any further delay to ensure justice for the crimes committed in 1971.
Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee president Shahriar Kabir said there should not be any further delay in bringing the necessary amendments to the law.
“Jamaat already lost its registration, and the latest election result too, reflectedthe people’s rejection to Jamaat since it has failed to secure a single seat, the first ever such incident in the electoral history of Bangladesh,” he said.
Not only Jamaat, but also the other six organizations should be brought under trial soon while the ICT-2 should be revived too to expedite the trial of war criminals, added Shahriar.
“If the government is really willing to try the organisations, it is the high time to make the amendment without further delay,” he added.
Jamaat in history
Jamaat openly sided with Pakistan during the Bangladesh’s liberation movement in 1971. Members from the party and its then student front were part of notorious auxiliary forces formed to thwart the Bangalee’s struggle for freedom.
Although all religion-based parties, including the Jamaat, were banned by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government in 1972, it re-emerged in 1976 (after Bangabandhu’s assassination) with a new name -- Islamic Democratic League (IDL).
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (later renamed Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami) was officially founded at a convention chaired by late Abbas Ali Khan, at Hotel Eden in Dhaka on May 25, 1979.
Jamaat first registered as a political party on November 11, 2008.
In January 2009, 25 people including several political leaders challenged Jamaat’s registration in court.
On August 1, 2013, the High Court issued an order that declared the party’s registration illegal and cancelled it.
The Election Commission published a gazette on October 27, 2018, cancelling Jamaat’s registration in line with Sub-clause 4 of Article 90H of the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972.
Several top leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami have already been convicted of crimes against humanity in 1971. A number of senior Jamaat leaders, including its chief and secretary general, are currently either facing trial or have been convicted of war crimes.
Jamaat’s assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Molla was the first person to be executed for war crimes in December 2013.