Bangladesh war crimes trials stir old tensions


Forty-two years ago, secessionist fighters took up arms against the Pakistan army in a brutal war that saw the creation of Bangladesh. The slaughter of civilians is considered nothing short of a genocide. Only now are trials underway, a development that's involved deadly riots and political infighting.

Anbarasam Ethirajan - BBC correspondent in Bangladesh 
Last month, supporters of Bangladesh's opposition -- the Jamaat-e-Islami party -- clashed with police after the party's leader, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi was sentenced to death for his role in the killings in 1971. 
Over the last year, the government of Bangladesh has set up an International Crimes Tribunal and charged 12 men with committing war crimes during the war of independence. The opposition parties say the tribunals are deeply flawed and motivated by politics rather than justice. Supporters say they bring a reckoning that is long overdue. There have been three verdicts so far and each one has led to more violence ... from supporters of the opposition and the government. There have been general strikes, and the deadly protests continued this weekend when a policeman was killed in a gunfight with Islamists. Some say it is the worst violence since the independence war itself.
Anbarasam Ethirajan is a BBC correspondent in Dhaka.

Sam Zarifi - Asia-Pacific Regional Director for the International Commission of Jurists
Bangladesh's opposition has been very critical of the tribunals. But they aren't the only ones with concerns about how these tribunals are being run and what might happen if Bangladeshi's don't see the process, or the verdicts, as legitimate. 

Sam Zarifi is the Asia-Pacific Regional Director for the International Commission of Jurists. We reached him in Bangkok. 

Last week we requested an interview with the Bangladesh High Commissioner in Ottawa. We were told it would take two to three weeks to process our request. We also requested an interview with the Tribunal prosecutors' office but they didn't respond to us. 

Tazreena Sajjad - Lecturer at the School of International Service (American University)
There are those, however, who believe that despite the criticisms and the protests, the tribunals will ultimately help Bangladeshis come to a better understanding of what happened during their country's birth.

 Tazreena Sajjad teaches international politics at American University's School of International Service in Washington, DC. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Naheed Mustafa.

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