The International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh (ICTB) [Facebook page] on Sunday indicted a former opposition leader for alleged human rights atrocities committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] against Pakistan. Ghulam Azam, 89, is the former head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. He opposed the independence of Bangladesh and reportedly aided the Pakistani Army during the war. Azam stands accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, murder, rape, arson and other international crimes carried out during the liberation conflict, in which Azam allegedly created and led violent pro-Pakistan militias. Azam is the third suspect and highest profile opposition figure to have been charged since the ICTB was established by Bangladesh in 2010. He claims that the charges against him are politically motivated. The trial is set to begin on June 5.
The ICTB ordered Azam's arrest [JURIST report] in January. Bangladeshi officials established the tribunal [JURIST report] in March 2010 to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in the Liberation War, during which officials estimate that Pakistani soldiers and local militia participated in more than three million killings and 200,000 rapes. The ICTB includes three high court judges and six investigators retired from civilian, law enforcement and military careers. In November the ICTB began its first trial [JURIST report] in the case against Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a former member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Bangladesh [official website, in Bengali] and one of the former leaders of JI. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] last year sent a letter to the Bangladesh government praising its efforts through the ICTB to prosecute war crimes, but urged the government to ensure that the trials are carried out in accordance with international human rights expectations [JURIST report].