Prosecutors with Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) [Facebook page] Monday filed an application for formal charges against the detained leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) [party website], alleging crimes against humanity committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 [Bangladesh News backgrounder]. If the application is approved, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury will be formally charged [bdnews24.com report] with directly and indirectly contributing to every war crime covered by Bangladesh's International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 (ICA) [text, PDF], including genocide, rape and abduction. The senior BNP leader is accused of more than two dozen incidents of human rights violations, including the shooting deaths of several people and the torture of others in the basement of his father's Chittagong residence during the war, purportedly in an effort to aid anti-liberation forces of West Pakistan against then-East Pakistan. The ICTB was established specifically to address charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 conflict. Bangladesh's independence struggle against Pakistan lasted nine months.
Last month, the ICTB for the first time accepted charges against a suspect [JURIST report]another senior opposition leader. Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, head of Jamaat e Islami (JI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], is charged with similar war crimes, also allegedly stemming from the 1971 conflict. The ICTB has accepted 20 of 31 charges including allegations of aiding anti-liberation forces through murder, rape, torching villages, looting and forcibly converting Hindus to Islam. The ICTB originally issued four arrest warrants [JURIST report] for such crimes in July 2010, and all four were filed against leaders of the JI. In May Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] sent a letter to the Bangladesh government praising its efforts through the ICTB to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the war, but urging the government to ensure that the trials are carried out in accordance with international human rights expectations [JURIST report]. Bangladesh established the ICTB [JURIST report] in March 2010.