[JURIST] A leader in Bangladesh’s main Islamist party was charged on Tuesday in connection with war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [Bangladesh News backgrounder] with Pakistan. Abdus Subhan, who was arrested last September, was formally charged after Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) conducted an investigation. However, human rights groups say that the tribunal, which was set up in 2010 to investigate abuses committed in that war, does not meet international standards and supporters of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [party website; Global Security backgrounder] say the tribunal is used politically to eradicate its leaders [BBC report]. The Bangladesh war of independence caused an estimated 10 million civilians to flee to India, and an estimated 3 million deaths. Subhan has denied all charges.
The war crimes tribunal has led to increased unrest and clashes between protestors and security forces throughout the nation. Last month the Bangladesh government executed [JURIST report] Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Mullah [JURIST news archive] for war crimes during the war of liberation. Also in December, two UN human rights experts on urged [JURIST report] the Bangladesh government to halt the execution of Mullah, advocating that the right of appeal is particularly important in death penalty cases, separating “possibly permitted” capital punishment from summary execution, “which by definition violates human rights standards.” In August Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] documenting brutality by Bangladeshi security forces in responding to street protests, resulting in the death of at least 150 protesters and the injury of at least 2,000 since February. HRW issued [JURIST report] an appeal to JI in March to end violent protests and clashes between the group’s supporters and Bangladeshi police, which resulted in at least 46 deaths [BBC report] that month alone. Appeals to members of JI to respect the rule of law and engage in peaceful exchange have been made particularly difficult by an August ruling by a Bangladeshi high court declaring the organization an illegal political party [JURIST report].