Law passed for Jamaat trial

Parliament on Sunday passed a bill amending the 1973 International Crimes Tribunal Act to make way for trying political parties or organisations apart from individuals accused of war crimes.

The amended law also arms the government with right, equal to the defendants, to appeal against verdicts by the tribunals for ‘crimes against humanity’ during the War of Independence in 1971.

The bill will now be put up for Presidential assent. Once that happens, the amended Act will be applicable to all cases since July 14, 2009.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed placed the bill in Parliament for approval. Workers’ Party President Rashed Khan Menon MP tabled two amendments to the bill.

“Trial of the organisations is as necessary as that of individuals. The verdict of Bachchu Razakar observed how the Jamaat as an organisation was involved in atrocities [during the Liberation War],” Menon said.

Responding to him, the Law Minister said, “Nazis were also tried after the Second World War. The amendments proposed by the honourable MP can be accepted.”

The amended bill was passed by a voice vote.

The Awami League and its fraternal parties enjoy a huge majority in the parliament. The BNP and other opposition parties have been staying away from the House in support of their demand for an interim caretaker administration to supervise the national elections.

The amended ICT Act will now not only facilitate an appeal against Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla’s life sentence by the prosecution, but will also allow dragging organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami to the special tribunals and charge them for committing ‘crimes against humanity’.

The Jamaat-e-Islami opposed the cause of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971 and the fundamentalist party sided with Pakistan’s army. Its leaders and activists joined the auxiliary support forces like the Razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams which were responsible for some of the horrendous atrocities during the war.

Nine top leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami and two of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are currently standing trial in the two war crimes tribunals.

One was set up in 2010, the other in 2012, to expedite the trials.

While former Jamaat activist Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar has been given a death sentence, the party’s Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Molla was given a life sentence as one of the charges against him could not be proved.

While the Jamaat has called for strikes demanding abolition of the war crimes trials and release of their leaders, the country erupted in furious protest after Quader Molla’s life sentence in view of the widely shared perception that his punishment was ‘too little, too late’.

Thousands of protestors gathered at Shahbagh, one of Dhaka’s busiest intersections, since Molla’s verdict on Feb 5, demanding death penalty for him.

The protests have snowballed across the country with most now demanding death for all war criminals and a ban on Jamaat and its fraternal affiliates.

The Awami league-led Grand Alliance government decided to bring the amendment to the ICT law after the Shahbagh protest. The Cabinet cleared the amendment last

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