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Ghulam Azam was formally charged with war crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal today. We call for international standards of justice to be applied in the ICT – currently it falls far short of this and we are concerned that a fair trial will not be possible given the political aims of the trial.
Al Jazeera reported the news as follows:
Former Bangladeshi opposition leader, Ghulam Azam, has been indicted by a special court for alleged atrocities including genocide and murder during the nation’s 1971 liberation struggle against Pakistan.
Azam, 89, the former head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party who was indicted on Sunday, is accused of creating and leading pro-Pakistan militias which carried out many killings and rapes during the nine-month-long war.
Wheelchair-bound Azam pleaded not guilty after the charges were read out to him for two hours by Judge Nizamul Huq, who set June 5 as the start of the trial.
“The International Crimes Tribunal charged him with crimes against humanity, genocide, murder, rape, abduction, arson and other crimes under international law,” state prosecutor Ziad Al Malum told AFP news agency.
Azam is the third and most high profile opposition figure to have been charged since the government set up the tribunal in 2010 to try suspects.
Both Jamaat and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party have dismissed the court as a “show trial”, while Human Rights Watch has said procedures used by the tribunal fall short of international standards.
Bangladesh government figures estimate more than three million people were killed in the war by the Pakistani army and local pro-Pakistan militias, although independent researchers put the figure at between 300,000 and 500,000.
Barrister Toby Cadman and Mohammed Nakibur Rahman (son of Motiur Rahman Nizami) spoke at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC on 26th March. The Jamaat leader’s son spoke of his fears for the lives of the accused who are currently being detained by the Bangladeshi government on allegations of war crimes.
Nakibur Rahman spoke about his father’s character and simple lifestyle, and highlighted the political nature of the allegations. He also stated that his father was deprived of sleep and subjected to torture in custody. He also detailed the harassment suffered by other members of his family.
Toby Cadman focussed his remarks on the lack of international standards in the proceedings of the tribunal. He also stated that the Bangladeshi government failed to respond to a letter from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary detention and commented that the government is trying to place deadlines on when the trial should be concluded, which places pressure on the tribunal and prevents a fair trial.
Further details can be found here