Briefing document (for media and policy makers) with outline background, context and key facts available to download: Briefing Document
Please see below for factual information regarding Ghulam Azam and events leading to his recent arrest. Downloadable PDF documents are attached where relevant.
- It is unanimously accepted that the Pakistan military carried out an operation during the 1971 war of independence in Bangladesh, in which many terrible atrocities were carried out.
- The Pakistan army set up locally-recruited paramilitary groups to assist them in maintaining Pakistani rule in the country and there are contemporaneous media reports evidencing this – in fact even the current Bangladesh Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina has stated that the paramilitary groups were set-up by the Pakistan military.
- Ghulam Azam had no formal or recognised role within the Pakistani government or army, nor has anyone ever claimed that he had.
- He was invited to join one of the ”Peace Committees”, which is acknowledged by both Ghulam Azam and his detractors, though the purpose of these committees is disputed. Ghulam Azam asserts that the purpose of the committees was to maintain peace between the military and Bangladeshi locals, and narrates incidents with names, dates and detailed facts of victims he assisted. He was one of a number of political activists at the time who were invited to join such committees.
- There is absolutely no evidence that Ghulam Azam ever advocated violence against Bengali civilians – whether Muslim or Hindu. Surely if he was the “mastermind” of the war crimes, as is being claimed, there would be some contemporaneous evidence in the many news reports of the time.
- Bangladesh was under strict censorship by the Pakistani military, therefore Ghulam Azam and his party were not able to publish his public statements opposing the acts of the military, though Ghulam Azam is emphatic that he appealed to the members of the military in person and sought a political, non-military, solution to the conflict. This was the background to the much talked about pictures of his meeting with General Tikka Khan.
- The constitution of the “International Crimes Tribunal” (ICT) is very worrying and the trial appears to be merely a process necessary to achieve foregone conclusions. The Tribunal members were appointed by the ruling Awami League party and count among its members individuals who were involved in earlier mock trials, in which Ghulam Azam and others were “convicted” and effigies of them burnt to symbolise their execution – see Lord Avebury’s comments.
- We acknowledge and empathise with the long-suffering victims of the independence war and understand their quest for justice. But justice will not be served by convicting the wrong people.
- The family of Ghulam Azam welcomes a fair trial as we know there is no way Ghulam Azam could be convicted in such a trial. Indeed, he underwent a trial regarding his citizenship in the 90′s, in which the judge commented obiter that “… there is nothing to directly implicate the petitioner in any of the atrocities alleged to have been perpetrated by the Pakistani Army or its associates – the Rajakars, Al-Badrs and Al-Shams. … we do not find anything that the petitioner was in any way directly involved in perpetuating the alleged atrocities during the war of independence.” Please see scanned document attached. Judgment 1993 Ghulam Azam
- There was also a British Immigration Tribunal hearing in 2010 when Ghulam Azam was refused a UK visa for alleged war crimes. In his Conclusion, the Tribunal Judge stated, “… the Respondent has no jurisdiction to issue the refusal notice dated 11th May 2009 … it is patently clear that the Respondent has failed to provide any evidence to support the very serious allegations which have been made against the Appellant. … I find it incredible that, more than fifteen months after that hearing, and ten months after the refusal notice dated 11th May 2009, containing even more serious allegations, not a shred of evidence has been produced to substantiate them!” Judgment attached, excerpt from bottom of page 3, top of page 4. See below:UK Immigration Judgment
- It is important to note the political backdrop to the current push for convictions relating to the independence war, 40 years later. All suspects are from the Jamaati-Islam party (JI) or Bangladesh National Party (BNP), who were members of a successful coalition which was in power prior to the victory by the ruling Awami League party. Since coming into power, Awami League has committed widespread human rights abuses, documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. David Cameron has also expressed concern, saying “One of the issues that we do have to raise, though, is that there are human rights issues in Bangladesh, and we should not be scared of raising them with the authorities in the proper way.”
- The Awami League has cracked down on criticism of the party by journalists and opposition politicians. Many people consider the current trials a way to destroy the opposition and ensure victory at the next election. Please see Human Rights Watch World Report 2011.