[JURIST] A former Bangladeshi minister from the Jatiya party [party website, in Bengali] was indicted by a Dhaka tribunal on Sunday for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [Bangladesh News backgrounder] with Pakistan. Syed Mohammad Qaisar, the former state minister for agriculture during the military rule of General HM Ershad, was arrested last May. Qaisar, 73, is accused [Sakaal Times report] of committing crimes against humanity during the war, including genocide, torture, murder and rape. A three-member panel for Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) has scheduled the trial to begin on March 4. Qaisar has denied all charges.
The war crimes tribunal has led to increased unrest and clashes between protestors and security forces throughout the nation. Human rights groups say that the ICTB, 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 being used politically to eradicate its leaders [BBC report]. Last month the ICTB formally charged [JURIST report] Abdus Subhan, a leader in Bangladesh’s main Islamist party, with committing war crimes. In December the Bangladesh government executed [JURIST report] JI 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 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.”