The Trial Of The Birth Of A Nation
BANGLADESH suffered a violent birth. In the last days of 1971 the country then called East Pakistan was engulfed by torture, rape, mass-killing and other acts of genocide. The main perpetrators were Pakistani troops bent on preventing secession from “West Pakistan”. But the army had the support of many of East Pakistan’s fundamentalist groups, including Jamaat-e-Islami, which remains Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party. Estimates of the death toll vary from around 300,000 to the current government’s reckoning of 3m—one in 20 of the population at that time.
In 2010 Bangladesh established a tribunal to try those accused of war crimes. It is called the International Crimes Tribunal, though it is not an international court in the sense of being founded on international law. Rather it is a national court, based on a Bangladeshi statute passed in 1973 and amended in 2009 and 2012. It was very late to begin the search for justice, for the accused as well as for victims. But war crimes are subject to no statute of limitation.