[JURIST] The Bangladesh government [official website] announced on Tuesday that prosecutors and investigators for the country's war crimes tribunal should be appointed by the first week of March. The tribunal will be used to conduct fair and transparent trials for those accused of war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] against Pakistan [JURIST news archive]. The announcement came after a meeting between Law Minister Shafique Ahmed and the director general of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) [official website]. The international development agency has offered the Bangladesh government USD 400 million for development projects, some of which may be used for the tribunal. The Bangladesh Parliament [official website] has allocated approximately USD 1.5 million for trial expenses. In April, the UN agreed to advise [JURIST report] the Bangladesh government on the organization and operation of the tribunal.
In July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [BBC profile] to improve war crimes laws [JURIST report] to bring justice to victims of the 1971 Liberation War. The rights group sent a letter to Hasina applauding the government's commitment in setting up tribunals to prosecute war criminals and asked for improvements to be made to the International Crimes Act of 1973. HRW requested that the trials be conducted by civilian judges, that the rights of the accused are respected, that there is proper protection for witnesses and victims who testify, that the law is consistent with international standards, and that the death penalty be excluded. HRW Asia director Brad Adams said that the law needs to be comprehensive enough to prevent the accused from challenging the entire process. HRW maintained that justice for the atrocities committed during the 1971 war is long overdue and that a lack of credibility for the Bangladesh tribunals would only benefit the accused war criminals.