The trial of Bangladesh’s 1971 war criminals may have taken
four decades to arrive, but there is still widespread desire in the country to see justice done, writes Andrew Small.
On the fourth floor of a nondescript pale-blue government building in Old Dhaka, the most important trial in the short history of the former East Pakistan is underway.
Clerks are collating defence and prosecution statements relating to the crimes committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of secession from Pakistan — a conflict that appears to have killed anywhere between 300,000 and three million people. The latter figure is the one claimed by the government of Bangladesh in the trials being held by the International Crimes Tribunal which has brought charges against seven key figures it says were involved in the killings.
The key government figure in the trial is Abdul Hannan Khan, the chief investigator for the tribunal which was set up by the Bangladeshi government in March 2010 to ‘try and punish any individual or group of individuals, or any member of any armed, defence or auxiliary forces, irrespective of his nationality’ who committed crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes, among other things, in the 1971 war which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.
Khan, a former police inspector general, takes his role with methodical care and, according to all accounts, seems uninterested in politics.
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