[JURIST] Bangladesh prosecutors on Tuesday filed war crime charges in the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) [facebook page] against Delwar Hossain Sayedee for genocide, murder and rape allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Sayedee is a senior leader of the Islamist group Jamaat e Islami (JI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Bangladesh chief prosecutor issued charges after an investigation [AFP report] yielded evidence of crimes against humanity stemming back 40 years. The ICTB was established in March 2010 [JURIST report] to try those accused of committing war crimes during the 1971 war, in which Bangladeshi forces succeeded in gaining independence from Pakistan. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday praised recent reforms [press release] to the ICTB but urged it to do more to ensure fair trials. HRW Asia director Brad Adams said, “we want these trials to succeed in bringing the people responsible for the horrific crimes of 1971 to justice. While the amendments are a significant improvement, key problems still need to be fixed to ensure fair trials and avoid unnecessarily lengthy appeals.” The ICTB is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday to review the charges against Sayedee.
HRW had sent a letter [JURIST report] to the Bangladesh government, in May, praising the establishment of the ICTB to to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the 1971 struggle for independence, but urged the government to ensure that the trials are carried out in accordance with international human rights expectations. The letter, sent to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, did praise the parliament’s passage of amendments to its International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 (ICA) [text, PDF], including instituting civilian judges rather than military judges and mandating independence for the tribunal’s judicial functions. 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.