[JURIST] The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) [official website; JURIST news archive] sentenced [judgment, PDF] Islamist leader ATM Azharul Islam to death on Tuesday for war crimes committed during the 1971 War of Liberation [Global Security backgrounder] against Pakistan. Azharul Islam is the Assistant Secretary General of the nation’s largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) [party website]. He was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, including mass murder, rape and torture, while fighting for Pakistan during the war as a member of the student party Islami Chhatra Sangha. The defense argued that Azharul Islam was only charged with these crimes for “political victimization,” but the court stated that it did not find any evidence proving prosecution for political purposes.
It is true that accused A.T.M Azharul Islam is one of the central leaders of a political party i.e. Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh; but the mere fact that a politician perpetrator for an offence does not mean his trial is to be treated as one of the political purposes. Law does not and can not provide impunity to politicians for committing criminal offences particularly the crimes against Humanity. A person can obviously not claim impunity if he advances his political belief by resorting to criminal activities and if he does so; he can not allege that his trial is of political purpose.
He has 30 days from the date of conviction to file an appeal. The JI party has called for two days of strikes [WSJ report] to cause a nationwide shutdown Wednesday and Thursday to protest the verdict.
The ICTB, which was established in 2009 under the International Crimes Act [text], is charged with investigating and prosecuting war crimes committed during the 1971 conflict, in which about 3 million people were killed. Asharul Islam is the 16th person to be convicted by the ICTB, and the 13th to receive a death sentence. Last week the tribunal sentenced [JURIST report] the former Bangladeshi Junior Minister to death for genocide and crimes against humanity. In November a special tribunal in Bangladesh sentenced [JURIST report] Mobarak Hossain, a former commander of a collaborators’ group of the Pakistani army, to death for his role in killings during the 1971 Independence War. Also in November the Supreme Court of Bangladesh [official website] upheld the death sentence [JURIST report] of Islamist politician Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, who was assistant secretary general of the JI party. In October another JI party leader, Motiur Rahman Nizami, was sentenced to death [JURIST report] for war crimes. Activists have long called for the banning of the country’s largest Islamist party. In March Bangladeshi investigators moved the government [JURIST report] to ban the Islamist party after evidence emerged indicating that JI formed armed groups to assist Pakistani forces in the commission of atrocities.