The International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh (ICTB) [Facebook page] on Sunday delayed the start of its first war crimes trial. The ICTB, a special court established to try individuals suspected of war crimes in relation to the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] against Pakistan, was slated to hear arguments in the case of Delwar Hossain Sayedee, leader of Jamaat e Islami (JI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], on Sunday. Sayedee's lawyer has asked the tribunal to review the charges against his client. The tribunal accepted 20 of 31 charges [Al Jazeera report] including allegations of aiding Pakistani soldiers, murder, torching villages, rape, looting and forcibly converting Hindus to Islam. Sayedee has denied the charges. The Jamaat-e-Islami party, which openly campaigned against breaking away [JURIST report] from Pakistan during the war, has accused the tribunal of targeting political opponents. The trial is scheduled to resume on November 20.
In July, Bangladesh prosecutors filed the underlying war crime charges [JURIST report] in the ICTB against Sayedee. Earlier that month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] praised recent reforms [press release] to the ICTB but urged it to do more to ensure fair trials, including allowing an accused to question the impartiality of the tribunal, which the law currently prohibits. In July 2010, the ICTB issued four arrest warrants [JURIST report] for the leaders of Jamaat e Islami, including Sayedee, for alleged crimes committed during the Liberation War. Bangladesh established the tribunal in March 2010 [JURIST report] to address charges of war crimes [Guardian report] and crimes against humanity.