The International Crimes Tribunals (ICTs) of Bangladesh are walking
steadily towards ending the impunity that has been prevailing for 41
years. The people of Bangladesh and, of
course, people around the globe are eagerly observing the trial of the
perpetrators who committed one of the worst genocides in history. Since
inception, the ICTs have been facing numerous obstacles. At home and
abroad, in media and international forums, propaganda efforts are being
launched to impede the trials, to defame the ICTs, and to spread
misperception about the whole process. Evidences tell that unbelievable
amount of money has been invested in every corner of the globe. Dr Ali
Al-Ghamdi, a former Saudi diplomat, is another straw in this current.
For the last few months, using a Saudi media platform, he has been lying
consistently about the ICTs. His writings in this context specialise in
twisting historical facts and dishonouring the Liberation War of
Bangladesh. Two of his previously published articles implicitly threaten
the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The last shell from his propaganda
barrel has been launched on December 19, 2012 in Saudi Gazette which he
titled “A trial to Deny Justice”. It may seem that Dr Al-Ghamdi has not
yet understood how the ICTs are operating and what the people of
Bangladesh think about it. What Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is doing is just part
of a well-planned, worldwide propaganda mission against the ICTs.
His article starts with a discussion about the creation of Pakistan.
He repeatedly attempts to paint the trial of the perpetrators of one of
the most heinous genocides in history as a trial of the so-called
‘Muslim’ leaders in Bangladesh. This observation will be helpful to
understand the communal underpinnings of Dr. Al-Ghamdi’s pieces. Let us
now have a look at the major lies embedded in this article.
The lies can be divided into two levels. One of them is about the
Liberation War of Bangladesh against the backdrop of which the current
trials are taking place. Another one is about the ongoing trial
procedures. We shall discuss both one by one.
* * *
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi starts with the bizarre proposition that Pakistan was
divided because of the mistakes committed by both sides – East and West
Pakistan, which cannot be further from the truth. It is interesting that
being a self-proclaimed specialist in South-East Asian affairs he is
still in such appalling denial of the facts. Surely a specialist knows
about the declaration of Yahya Khan on December 24, 1970 that Sheikh
Mujib, the then leader of Awami League would be the Prime Minister of
Pakistan after the landslide victory in the 1970 Election . Surely
he, while specializing in South-East Asian affairs, learned about the
Larkana Conspiracy and the betrayal of the Pakistani army and
politicians . The truth is, Bengalis were deprived and discriminated
despite the development of Pakistan being mostly dependent on East
Pakistan’s resources. The 23-year long deprivation led the Bengalis to
stand for their rights – an uprise which the Pakistan army aimed to
crush by military intervention, by genocide. This was no mistake of
“both sides”, rather, was the obvious outcome of the colonialist
behaviour of Pakistani rulers against which the people of the East
exercised their right to self-determination.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi tagged the nine-month long Liberation War of
Bangladesh as a civil war – an assertion which is technically and
historically wrong. Since Bangladesh had unilaterally declared its
independence at the very beginning of the genocide, the war became an
international war by definition, even in light of the recent positions
adopted under international law, namely the Kosovo case before the
International Court of Justice. Calling it a “civil war” is just an
effort to minimise the significance of the war. Inclusion of the
interference of India is an exaggeration. India was a great friend of
Bangladesh and provided military help, but the war was fought by the
people of Bangladesh. On December 3, 1971 Pakistan waged war against
India and started attacking inside its territory . This is how India
was involved in the ‘war’ and the Bangladesh-India alliance formed.
Pakistan armed force surrendered not to Indian army as Dr. Ali-Alghamdi
says, but to the previously mentioned allied force as per the Instrument
of Surrender .
The third paragraph of Dr Ghamdi’s article is a classic example of
fact-twisting. For the convenience of discussion we may have a clear
“The Pakistan army was accused of committing war crimes,
including murder and rape, during the civil war. The first government of
Bangladesh, headed by the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,
issued a law to try war crimes, and accordingly a list of suspected war
criminals was prepared. The list contained 195 Pakistani soldiers and
there were no civilians among those accused of war crimes. Another law
was issued to try Bangladeshis who collaborated with the Pakistan army.
Under this law, more than 100,000 people were arrested but were later
released due to a public amnesty announced by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who came to power in West Pakistan managed to secure
the release of the Pakistani soldiers, taken as prisoners of war by
India, following his talks with the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
There were some suspected war criminals among these soldiers. With
this, the trials of war crimes suspects seemed to come to an end.”
Lie number one, the number of laws were not one, but two. First one
was the Collaborators Act of 1972 which was applicable to the people who
collaborated with the Pakistani Army in committing genocide and other
crimes. The second one, International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 was
issued for trying any person responsible for committing international
crimes in the territory of Bangladesh including those 195 Pakistani
prisoners of war. Section 3(1) of the Act reads ,
“A Tribunal shall have the power to try and punish any individual
or group of individuals, or any member of any armed, defence or
auxiliary forces, irrespective of his nationality, who commits or has committed, in the territory of Bangladesh, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, any of the crimes mentioned in sub-section.”
As we see, there is no specification, neither for Pakistani army nor for their collaborators.
Lie number two, the 195 Pakistani war criminals were not forgiven or
released. They were just transferred to the custody of Pakistan while
Pakistan was responsible for bringing them to justice as part of their
obligation under international law. Due to serious diplomatic clash
among Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India concerning those Pakistani
prisoners of war, a tri-partite agreement was signed by those three
countries. According to this agreement, the government of Pakistan took
the responsibility of arranging the trial of the 195 war criminals. Let
us have a look at section 13 of the agreement ,
“The question of 195 Pakistani prisoners of war was discussed by
the three Ministers in the context of the earnest desire of the
Governments for reconciliation, peace and friendship in the
sub-continent. The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the
excesses and manifold crimes committed by those prisoners of war
constituted, according to the relevant provisions of the UN General
Assembly resolutions and international law, war crimes, crimes against
humanity and genocide, and that there was universal consensus that
persons charged with such crimes as
195 Pakistani prisoners of war should be held to account and subjected
to the due process of law. The Minister of State for Defense and Foreign
Affairs of the Government of Pakistan said that his Government
condemned and deeply regretted any crimes that may have been committed.“
Lie number three, the question of bringing the war criminals to justice
never came to an end. Dr. Al-Ghamdi speaks of the public amnesty for the
collaborators. Let us check who were eligible for the amnesty ,
“PERSONS NOT COVERED The clemency granted under para 1 shall not extend to persons, who
under the aforesaid order are convicted for or charged with or alleged
to have committed any offense under section 302(murder),section
304(culpable homicide not amounting to murder),section 376(rape),section
435(mischief by fire or explosive),section 436(mischief by fire of
explosive substance with intent to destroy house),and section
438(mischief by fire of explosive substance to any vessel), of the penal
The war criminals who are currently being tried by ICTs did not care
for this procedure. Rather Ghulam Azam and some other collaborators fled
as we see from the news of The Dainik Bangla on 10 February, 1973.
After the declaration of the general amnesty, about nine thousand
collaborators were in custody. The trials continued till the
assassination of Sheikh Mujib on August 15, 1975. Some news headlines
from The Dainik Ittefaq will prove this:
“Two Al-badars sentenced to life” (December 5, 1973),
“14 collaborators sentenced to death in Barisal” (Aprli 2, 1974),
“2 collaborators sentenced to life” (April 20, 1975)
Dr. Al-Ghamdi lies as he says that the collaborators were released. More
than 20 collaborators were sentenced to death; many were sentenced to
imprisonment for different durations. Dr. Al-Ghamdi speaks of political
leaders; in the following we present a number of news headlines
regarding their trials and imprisonments:
“PDP leader Nurul Amin sentenced for collaboration” (Dainik Bangla, July 5, 1972)
“Jasimuddin, minister of aggressor’s reign, sentenced to life” (Ittefaq, November 26, 1972)
“Jamaat-e-Islami leader Maolana Yousuf sentenced to life” (Ittefaq, December 5, 1972)
“Solayman sentenced to life in Khulna” (Ittefaq, December 23, 1972)
Dear readers, these are just half of the Al-Ghamdi lies, save your
wonder for the rest. Let us now see how Dr. Al-Ghamdi is defaming ICTs.
* * *
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi says that several international organizations have
criticized the proceedings of the ICTs. This is true, and there is no
such trial which stands above criticism. The historic Nuremberg Trial
which laid the foundation for trials of war criminals was criticized as
victor’s justice or as being “fundamentally unfair”. The trial of the
perpetrators of genocide committed in Cambodia, Yugoslavia and Rwanada
were also criticized. So is the ICTs, and those criticisms have been
Then Dr. Al-Ghamdi brings up the controversial role of The Economist.
He repeats a number of archaic arguments that have been raised and
answered to on a number of occasions. Once again, we shall discuss the
issue in brief.
Firstly, significant clerical help is arranged for judges who preside
over historic tribunals which have come to operation to deal with
serious crimes like war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity. An
army of research associates along with copy editors and proof readers
are engaged to help the judges. Such arrangement was not possible in
case of the ICT. An insolvent country such as Bangladesh could not
afford such luxury, due to bureaucratic complexity and financial
limitations.. Some selfless souls have given this research, editing and
drafting help to the ICT judges. This is reflected in the ICT-I’s
December 6 Order order as well. The court has made it clear
that help is provided for research, drafting and editing assistance
only. This assistance was provided according to the instruction and
extent set by the judges. What is wrong with providing assistance
regarding research and copy editing under the direction of the judges?
Proof-reading does not make anyone the writer. There is nothing illegal
or opaque in the whole process.
Secondly, the discussion in the illegally hacked audio recording was
informal and, at its worst, a gossip. Justice Nizamul Haque and Dr.
Ahmed Ziauddin talked about the ongoing trial, its progress, and the
response of people and government. Theirs was no different than the
private conversations that take place in millions of living rooms. The
transcript published by the perpetrators shows that they talked about
Hajj schedule, social gatherings, their physical conditions and, of
course, about the ICTs. This is very predictable as they both are men of
law; one of them is directly involved with ICT-1. So, here is nothing
to be surprised.
Thirdly, it is mentioned that Government of Bangladesh has gone crazy
to finish the trial. This is also very natural for the Government. We
don’t see many examples of such trials in history. Bangladesh has taken
up this mammoth task after four long decades. She is using her resources
and manpower so that the tribunals can operate successfully. People of
Bangladesh are wholeheartedly waiting to witness justice after what they
have gone through in 1971 and the following forty two years. So, there
is nothing shocking if the Government is concerned about the tribunal’s
pace. What is indeed noticeable is that both Justice Nizamul Haque and
Dr. Ahmed Ziauddin repeatedly mention their commitment to a fair trial,
irrespective of how long it might take. Unfortunately, this talking
point is carefully left out by Dr. Al-Ghamdi and other compatriots of
his who are on a mission to discredit the ICT. What Mr Ghamdi fails to
acknowledge is that the materials that have been allegedly hacked, have
obviously been obtained using illegal means. His tolerance of illegality
to such an extent is quite revealing about his role, and certainly
indicates lack of objectivity on his part.
Dr. Al-Ghamdi expresses his concern about “dramatic shifting of
witness”. About the missing witness, Mr. Sukh Ranjan Bali, it was
mentioned that he has been missing for the previous 9 months. His
daughter, Monica Rani Mondal, filed a general diary about this in the
police station in person. However, he appeared in court under defence
attorney’s supervision when the prosecution was looking for him. After
the hacking incident a different question arises – are the witnesses
actually safe? The privacy of an honourable judge has been breached,
illegally. And since judges are the custodians of the secrets regarding
witness protections, we can certainly fear that their security and
privacy have perhaps been breached too. This could be an explanation why
witnesses under given names refused to appear, as their real identity
must have been compromised by this hacking.
Nobody, involved in this Skype incident, committed anything illegal
or unfair. This has been made obvious by the Economist’s report  –
“We do not believe he has broken any laws and cannot be held
responsible for the actions of others. In addition, our investigations
have not covered any aspect of the defence’s approach to this tribunal.”
Though no law has been violated, Justice Nizamul Haque has resigned
to keep the trial free from unnecessary debate. In this context, Dr.
Al-Ghamdi, referring some lawyers of Bangladesh, wants a retrial. This
is absurd as the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act does not allow
retrials for such reasons. From section 6(6) of the Act ,
“A Tribunal shall not, merely by reason of any change in its
membership or the absence of any member thereof from any sitting, be
bound to recall and re-hear any witness who has already given any
evidence and may act on the evidence already given or produced before
Again and again, Dr. Al-Ghamdi tries to portray a scenario that
Bangladesh Government is aiming to weaken their political rival, the so
called Muslim leaders of Bangladesh. The truth is, the trial has nothing
to do with the religion or politics of the alleged war criminals. The
accused are being tried for what they have done forty years ago, not for
the political ideology they are loyal to. Our South-East Asian expert
must have heard about the strike observed by the leftist political
parties. They demanded the completion of trial of war criminals as soon
as possible and they are not sharing the ruling power. Again, we may
ask, who Dr. Al-Ghamdi is calling Muslim leaders? That Jamaat-e-Islami,
the leading party which consists of top war criminals, has wiped out
‘Rule of Allah’ from their party charter just to qualify for the
election . And he calls it an Islamic party!
The 1136-word article of Dr. Al-Ghamdi is but an eclectic collection
of inaccuracies. It appears to be prepared intentionally to spread
propaganda against the ongoing trials and to impede justice. It can
serve one single purpose – creating misconception. Previously, he wrote a
letter addressing the Prime Minister of Bangladesh which also was full
to the brim with misinterpretations and misrepresentations.
* * *
We may conclude with some words from Syed Asif Shahkar, a Sweedish
Justice of Pakistani origin. About the ongoing trial of the war
criminals in Bangladesh Mr. Shahkar says ,
“It is unfortunate that the country could not hold the trials of
those who betrayed their brothers in native land. There is no question
that they [war criminals] would escape the trial.”
While people around every corner of the globe, even from Pakistan,
want justice to be upheld and war criminals to be brought to justice,
people like Dr. Al-Ghamdi are trying to impede the trial.
What people like Dr. Al-Ghamdi are avoiding is the obvious fact that the
victims of the genocide are the people of Bangladesh. Three million
people has been killed, about four hundred thousand women have been
brutally raped and tortured. All the people of Bangladesh want is
justice; all they want is the end of an impunity that has been haunting
them for four long decades.
For the sake of justice and humanity, ICTs need cooperation of the
people from all over the world. The peace-loving people from every
corner of the globe as well as the government of Bangladesh must take
immediate measures to stop such propaganda.
——————————– Pritom Das is an
electrical and electronic engineer. He is a freelance writer and
blogger, especially interested in genocide and the Liberation War of
Bangladesh in 1971.
 Secret Catalogue Of Guilt And Disaster Over East Pakistan, Peter Hazel Hurst,June 2,1971,The Times.
 An Atlas of the 1971 India-Pakistan War: The Creation of
Bangladesh, John H. Gill, National Defense University, 2003 (page 12).
 Instrument of Surrender of Pakistan Army (1971).
 International Crimes (Tribunals) Act – 1973.
 Para 13,Bangladesh-Pakistan-India Tri-partite Agreement, April 9,1974.
 The Act of Clemency, issued on November 30, 1973.
 Trying war crimes in BangladeshThe trial of the birth of a nation, December 15, 2012, The Economist.
 The Daily Sun, December 5, 2012.
 Friend Among Foes, Hasan Jahid Tusher, December 16, 2012, The Daily Star.