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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Time to let go of the past

Update : 16 Jul 2013, 04:57 AM

Within minutes of the International War Crimes Court delivering its guilty verdict on Ghulam Azam, Bangladeshi’s took to Facebook and Twitter with their instant reactions.

Many are outraged that the court did not enforce the maximum punishment available – the death penalty and suspect political manoeuvrings and foul play.

However, sympathisers of Azam reacted with a sense of relief that the revered and much loved leader of Jamaat-e-Islami party will live on, perhaps to fight another day.

If you trawl through recent history, there is no consistent global punishment for being involved in war crimes and specifically genocide.

Andrija Artuković, the Croatian minister of justice received the death sentence, as did Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s foreign minister under Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, the Bosnian Serb Radislav Krstić, was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for being an accomplice to genocide in the Srebrenica massacre, as was Milan Martić President, and defence minister of Croatian Serbs during Croatian war of independence.

At this point its worth reminding ourselves that Azam is 90 years old, that he has been found guilty of some of the worst crimes mankind can commit, will have that ignominy attached to his legacy forever, and been given the longest prison sentence ever handed out by a Bangladeshi court.

The judges were prepared to deal out the death penalty but noted that because of his age, this was neither necessary nor appropriate. I have to agree and am glad that common sense prevailed

What makes these trials so hard are that they are so stoked full of emotion. Most Bangladeshi’s had family members who fought as freedom fighters or died in the 1971 war of independence. Sadly, many Bangladeshi’s also had family members killed.

And so there is a great deal of personal emotion invested in these war crimes rulings. The need for a closure is real and just.

But when I read through the Facebook posts which proclaimed "sadness and shame," that "the dog Azam deserves nothing but a gruesome death," I find myself asking is it justice that people want or is it vengeance and revenge?

Desiring vengeance is not a bad thing, but people should be transparent about it, and not hide behind the veil of justice. Vengeance can be part of justice. But a true justice system balances the needs of the victim, society as a whole, and the criminal. And I can't, for one moment, see how society gains moral superiority by desiring that the state kill a 90-year-old man for war crimes instead of giving him a 90-year jail sentence.

Of course the next line of argument is that a future government that may require Jaamat-e-Islami party support to form a coalition will be dependent on the release of Azam from jail.

I thought people in support of the ICT were not driven purely down political lines? If people fear this, then they should ensure, through democracy, that such a situation does not arise, no matter which party they have allegiances towards.

Lets not decry the court: Golam Azam was found guilty and given a record jail sentence. Given the circumstances, I think justice was served.

More importantly, these war crimes trials are meant to help gain closure. If you really feel cheated, I’d suggest you ask yourself: does your life really fundamentally change if this 90-year-old man is hung, or lives out the very last few months and years of his life in jail?

Let it go. Enough precious time, resources and energy have been invested in the past. Bangladeshi’s really need to move on and focus all this energy and passion into building a better future … its far more interesting, fulfilling and rewarding.

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