Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Razakar commander Hasan Ali to face noose or firing squad for war crimes

The International Crimes Tribunal has ordered the execution of Kishoreganj’s fugitive Razakar commander Syed Md Hasan Ali by hanging by the neck or by shooting ‘till he is dead’.
The two ICTs have so far awarded capital punishment to 14 convicts in 19 cases, but this is the first time a tribunal has ordered the execution of the death sentence by shooting.
The verdict says: “Considering the overall flow of incidents, we’ve agreed that justice is possible only by awarding death sentence to Syed Md Hasan Ali.” Ali is the first war crimes convict to receive death sentence with provision of execution by shooting.Ali was awarded the capital punishment after five out of the six charges had been proven beyond doubt. The charges include genocide, murder, kidnap and confinement.

The three-member ICT-1, led by Justice M Enayetur Rahim, awarded the punishment on Tuesday.
The two other members are Justices Jahangir Hossain and Anwarul Haque. There is no instance in the country of anyone, awarded capital punishment under the Criminal Procedure Code, being executed by shooting. Death sentences are executed in the country by hanging the convicts by the neck.
Earlier, the judge in the Bangabandhu murder case had ordered execution of the convicts by a firing squad but they were hanged to death following an order of the High Court.

In their observation, the judges said the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 had not specified the means of execution. “But Clause-268 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides for execution by hanging until death. And Clause-34(a) of the Special Powers Act of 1974 provides for execution by hanging or shooting until death,” they said.“In our judgment, the death sentence can be executed by hanging the accused by the neck till he is dead or by shooting him till he is dead.”

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told , “There is no instance of execution by a firing squad.
“The convicts in the Bangabandhu murder case were ordered to be executed by a firing squad but the High Court did not maintain it.”
He, however, said Bangabandhu’s murder was tried under the CrPC and the verdict was executed as per the Jail Code, which provided for execution only by hanging.
But the Jail Code is not applicable to ICT judgment, he added.
Referring to the ICT law, the attorney general said Ali could appeal against the verdict in 30 days from its pronouncement. He will lose the right to appeal after that period, he added.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Massacre of 21st February 1952 Dhaka



The day is not just to remember their sacrifices and contributions by placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar.

We rather need to comprehend the reason why language activists had protested against the then Pakistan government's decision to make Urdu the sole state language of the erstwhile East and West Pakistan since this historic day did not come to pass on a single day, nor did it end there.
What began with an agitation programme by some students on the Dhaka University campus on December 6, 1947 in protest at discussions in different government forums about making Urdu the state language, reached its climax on the morning of Feb 21 in 1952.
Students of schools, colleges and universities along with ordinary people under the leadership of Abdul Matin and Gaziul Haque gathered on the DU campus near Dhaka Medical College Hospital, violating Section 144, which had been imposed on that day to restrict assembly and protest programmes.Urdu and Bangla, although the two most commonly used languages of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, had very different histories.

A Procession on the morning of 21st February, 1952

Urdu developed as a language during the Delhi Sultanate and the Moghul Empire, and was considered the lingua franca of the Muslim aristocracy. Bangla developed as a language blossoming through the cultural explosion of the Bengali Renaissance; it flourished through the work of poets and folk-artists.

Their procession, which demanded the status of state language for Bangla, was fired upon by police, leaving many including Rafique, Jabbar, Barkat and Salam fatally injured. Their death breathed fire into the language movement ultimately forcing the then Pakistani government to adopt Bangla as a state language alongside Urdu.
However, Ekushey did not end there; it rather planted the seed of freedom in the hearts of Bangalees and 19 years later, an independent country named Bangladesh was born in 1971.
In November 1999, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) proclaimed Ekushey February as the International Mother Language Day, which has since been observed every year to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
The day is being observed this year with the theme "Inclusive Education through and with Language – Language Matters."
Yet only a few hundred of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world are used in education system and public domain and less than a hundred are used in the digital world, according to a UNESCO website.
In Bangladesh, out of about 40 languages used by different communities including the ethnic minority groups, only Bangla has made it to the education system and the digital world.
It should constantly remind us to protest against all forms of suppression of rights, whether sponsored by state or non-state machineries, and to stand firmly against domination and aggression of the mighty over the weak for it was Ekushey February that had paved the way for our independence. 
On this day, we should, besides placing wreaths at the Shaheed Minar, perhaps recall that poem by Abul Fazal where he tells us that Eksuhey means not bowing your head down to any pressure -- an insight that calls for a country where every single person could express their thoughts in their own words and language without fear.

An artist's rendition of the Protest Movement
To promote cultural homogeneity, Mohammed Ali Jinnah declared that Urdu be the only state language of Pakistan. Bangla was looked down on as it was thought to be a part of Hindu civilization that did not have any place in an Islamic country. The citizens of Eastern Pakistan immediately protested this move. Political agitation and unrest continued in the years afterwards. The accumulated frustration of the citizens of East Pakistan erupted in 1952. The government banned all political movements and demonstrations. On 21st February, denying this ban, a group of students from University of Dhaka tried to organize a procession demanding that Bangla be made the State Language besides Urdu. When they reached the border of the campus, they found that the whole campus was cordoned with police.
Trying to break out of the police barricade, students clashed repeatedly with the police forces. When the vice-chancellor of the university asked the policemen to disperse so that the students could continue their peaceful protests, his pleas were ignored and the police started firing tear-gas canisters in the crowd. The students also refused to disperse, and tried to gather again in different spots of the city. When they approached the legislative building, the police opened fire on the students. Several students were killed. When the news of this massacre spread, the entire Dhaka city went into a state of mourning and shut down.
The next day, when a procession was being brought out to mourn the fallen of the previous day, the police again attacked the procession and opened fire on the participants. A number of individuals were again killed. Grief and outrage continued to build within the country. The movement launched by various organizations that had been demanding that Bangla also be made the state language of Pakistan gained new momentum, and politicians across virtually the entire political spectrum in East Pakistan decided to unite in their efforts to gain legal recognition for Bangla as a state language of Pakistan.

Monday, December 22, 2014

War crimes accused Syed Mohammad Qaisar

The International Crimes Tribunal will deliver its judgement in the case against war crimes accused Syed Mohammad Qaisar, a former Jatiya Party state minister, for his alleged involvement in the killing of over 150 people mostly Hindus, rape and other crimes during the 1971 Liberation War.
Justice Obaidul Hassan, chairman of tribunal 2, passed the order yesterday.
During the closing arguments in the case, the prosecution sought death for Qaisar for the crimes he had committed as the top leader of “Qaisar Bahini” – a group formed with 500-700 anti-liberation people in Habiganj and Brahmanbaria to collaborate with the Pakistani occupation forces.
The prosecution also demanded compensation for two rape victims and a war baby.
According to the prosecution, he was a local Peace Committee leader and razakar commander. Son of a Muslim League leader, Qaisar had been affiliated with Convention Muslim League, BNP and Jatiya Party in his political career.
Qaisar from Itakhola village at Madhabpur in Habiganj contested the 1970’s election as an independent candidate but was defeated. After the independence, he fled to London and on his return in 1978 Qaisar was elected an MP in the 1979 election as an independent candidate and joined the BNP under the leadership of Gen Ziaur Rahman.
Later he joined the Jatiya Party and was elected from Habiganj 4 in 1986 and 1988 elections. In 1988, Qaisar joined the Jatiya Party and became state minister for agriculture.
The accused was arrested on May 16 last year, just a day after the tribunal had ordered his arrest, and admitted to a private hospital in the capital. The tribunal later granted him conditional bail considering his age.
The 73-year-old is facing 16 charges of crimes against humanity that include genocide, torture, murder and rape.
He was indicted on February 2 and the trial began on March 4. A total of
 32 prosecution witnesses including a rape victim and a war baby testified against the accused; the defence, however, did not place any witness.
On August 20, the tribunal kept the case adjourned for verdict. It also cancelled his bail and ordered jail. The prosecution said since war crimes convict Abdul Alim had not been given capital punishment due to old age, Qaisar tried to show his complications before the tribunal.
On charge 16, Qaisar was charged for participating, abetting, facilitating and substantially contributing in the actual commission of the killing of 108 unarmed civilians belonging to Hindu community in Nasirnagar.
In charge 12, the tribunal said at noon of a day in mid-August, Qaisar, his companions in “Qaisar Bahini” and members of razakar force had brought Mazeda Begum, her father Atab Mia and uncle Ayub Mia to the army camp set up at Jagadishpur High School at Madhabpur, on capture from their house.
Qaisar had handed Mazeda over to the army, despite protest on her father’s part. The army men thus committed successive rape upon Mazeda.
In charges six, Qaisar has been charged for raping an indigenous woman, Hiramoni, on May 11 or 12th of 1971 at Chanpur Tea Garden. Qaisar along with the Pakistani army personnel had gone to Chunarughat area and raped the Santal woman.
Charges six, seven and eight mention the offences took place in May 1971. At that time, at least 17 people had been murdered and tortured by Qaisar along with the Pakistani army.
According to charges 12-16, he had captured freedom fighters from Chunarughat, Madhabpur and Nasirnagar. In these criminal incidents, Qaisar used his personal force “Qaisar Bahini” to assist the Pakistani Army.
Monwara Begum of the tribunal’s investigation agency conducted the probe against Qaisar. On May 29, 2010, the War Crime Fact Finding Committee handed over a list of the 19 top-rated war criminals to the tribunal. Qaisar’s name was on the list.
‘No Qaisar Bahini’
The defence of Qaisar during the closing arguments in the case claimed that there had been no collaborators’ group named “Qaisar Bahini” in Habiganj in 1971. Lawyer SM Shahjahan also claimed that the prosecution had failed to prove the case.
The defence refuted the claims made by third prosecution witness Md Tajul Islam, 83. During his testimony on March 30, Tajul apologised to the tribunal for his involvement in atrocities as a member of the “Qaisar Bahini.”
The witness said Qaisar had welcomed the Pakistani force to Shahbazpur along with his 15 associates on April 27, 1971. Then he met the commander of the Pakistan Army at Noapara and requested him to provide the group with arms. Tajul said he had been with Qaisar at that time.
The tribunal also recorded the description of formation of the “Qaisar Bahini.”
On April 14, Manzur Ali, a Convention Muslim League leader and uncle of Qaisar, called a meeting at his place where the chairman and the member of local Union Parishad were present. Qaisar joined the meeting. “I was present at that meeting and Qaisar was appointed as the chief of Peace Committee.”
Tajul admitted that he had also been made a member of the Peace Committee. “And after that meeting, Qaisar created his group with at least 500 people from Itkhola, Ghatua, Belghar and Bejura villages,” the witness said.
During the closing arguments, prosecutor Tureen Afroz said: “For the first time, a war child has testified in a war crimes trial in Bangladesh. Two women victims and the war child – also a woman – have been enduring miserable life. They were also subjected to social harassment. They are real claimants for compensation.”
Then the tribunal asked her about the process of paying compensation, if Qaisar was convicted. The prosecutor replied that it was possible to pay the victims from the property of the accused. Official documents stated that at least 25,000 women faced forced pregnancies during the Liberation War which was the result of one of the war strategies of the Pakistani Army and the collaborators, the prosecutor said.