Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established the war crimes tribunal after she returned to power in 2009. The government claims that more than 3000 people were killed during the 1971 war, murdered by many who collaborated with the Pakistan army. While the system aims to provide justice and try those accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes, Human Rights Watch states that the Tribunal’s legal procedures are not in line with international standards. Experts have warned the Bangladesh government to adhere to global benchmarks in order to conduct an inquiry into such a sensitive and charged matter.
U.S. Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp, recently visited Bangladesh and stated three critical actions that needed to be taken before any trial could take place. Rapp mentioned that the government would have to describe ‘crimes against humanity’ in their own perspective and it would have to accord the same rights to the accused as it would to any other Ban-
gladeshi citizen. The accused should have a legal counsel, time to prepare his defense and the option of challenging the legality of the process. Furthermore, a witness protection system must be developed and the trial should be broadcast to the public, highlighting key testimonies, arguments and verdicts.
Though the first trial is underway, international human rights bodies are not convinced the system is up to the mark and have termed the system itself a violation of justice and human rights. The government has decided to continue with the process.