JUSTICE IS TRUTH IN ACTION
Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan ndc, psc (Retd)
The heading of this piece is a quote, chosen because the acute relevance of it has never been more illustrated than in the first verdict of the International Crimes Tribunal 2, delivered on Monday. Truth has prevailed. The accused Abul Kalam Azad alias Bacchu was charged with crimes against humanity and has been sentenced to death. The message has been loud and clear — crime will not pay. The only regret for us all, perhaps with a few exceptions, is that the trial had to be conducted in absentia, the accused having made his escape just before he was about to be nabbed.
And this is what we must dwell on first before we go further. It seems that he had many well wishers within the administration. Otherwise, how is it that a person who was under intense investigation could give a slip to everybody and disappear into thin air just before he was about to be nabbed? And now there is speculation that he is in Pakistan, trying to escape to one of the Middle-Eastern countries.
It takes quite a doing to cross over one international border illegally; and he managed to cross over two in that manner, both of those heavily fenced, and one of which is the most dangerous border on the planet, and be happily ensconced in a third country…. how very convenient. There is good reason to believe that the accused had truck with the Jihadis and the political extremists, since it is they who venture across the Indo-Pak border regularly risking their life and limbs. And it is perhaps they that helped him to cross over to Pakistan. In spite of what the law minister says, it seems unlikely that the verdict might be carried out any time soon.
The sentence was bound to cause a flurry of comments. Given that the trial has taken place after more than forty years of the crimes being committed, and also the huge amount of money spent to garner international support against the trial, the furore is only to be expected. It must be mentioned that at one point in time, and particularly after the first tribunal was established, it was made to look as if not only putting the 1971 criminals on trial was a grave act of impropriety, calling for their trial was very wrong too.
What is surprising too is the way some western media have venerated the culprit, as a popular cleric. No man who has been found guilty of the kind of charges leveled against him deserves the appellation that preceded his name, because no one that genuinely carries that reverential title could ever have indulged in the acts that the accused has been found guilty of.
It was not surprising to see certain quarters laying red herrings to mislead the public. It was said of the Court that there was nothing “international” about it. Of course there was not, and it was not meant to be so. It was an indigenous tribunal formed under the International Crimes Tribunal Act-1973. And one is not certain as to what is the datum reference of “international standards” and who defines it? As long the international covenants we have acceded to have been upheld in the process, the fairness should not be questioned.
It is said too that the charges leveled against the accused could have been tried under the existing CrPC. I shall leave it to the legal minds to answer this, but those who pose the question perhaps forget the historical context in which the crimes were committed. The crimes were committed to thwart the Liberation War, and that is what lends a different dimension to the crimes.
What, however, is for the tribunal to have ensured and satisfied all the parties concerned is that the accused was given all the chances to defend himself (something that he and his cohorts in the nine-months of mayhem they perpetrated in Bangladesh in 1971, did not give their helpless victims).
However, we could have done without the so-called SKYPE controversy that came to be associated with the trial because of the very injudicious act of the ex-chairman of the tribunal. Discussing trial matters with somebody who was not directly associated with the trial or a member of the tribunal, outside the court, was flagrant violation of his oath. And this is what has given the scope to some commentators to dub the tribunal as “controversial.”
If justice has come, albeit late, it comes as solace to the millions who bear the pains of 1971. But hopefully, it is the beginning of the end of the regime of impunity, because more than anything else this has been the biggest impediment in establishing truth, and without truth justice cannot prevail.
We would hope that the BNP would come out clearly on the issue, and articulate their position on the trial and the verdict clearly. Pettifogging will not do, nor will its facilitating Jamaat to oppose the trials by according it the platform to do so. We would also hope that this will not be used to make political hay by the ruling coalition.
The writer is Editor, Op-ed and Strategic Issues, The Daily Star.
Thursday, January 24, 2013