The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) [Facebook page] began its first trial on Sunday for crimes against humanity committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 [Bangladesh News backgrounder]. The first suspect in this trial is Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a former member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Bangladesh [official website, in Bengali] and one of the leaders of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party [official website, GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. He has been charged with 20 crimes [Hindustan Times report] contained in the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 [text, PDF] including genocide, arson, rape and torture. If Sayedee is found guilty, he will face the death penalty. Four other leaders from Sayedee's Jamaat-e-Islami party and two from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) [official website] are also facing trials in the near future.
The trial is the result of consistent effort and persistence of the ICTB. Last week, ICTB prosecutors filed an application [JURIST report] for formal charges against a former leader who allegedly committed crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War. This application was filed in response to ICTB's request [JURIST report] for a submission of formal charges. However, the trial process faced some concerns when Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] pointed to reports showing threats of violence and arrest against defense lawyers and witnesses. HRW urged Bangladesh to stop such harassment [JURIST report] in order to have a legitimate trial against the accused. The trial was delayed [JURIST report] last month because the defense lawyers asked the court to review the charges against Sayedee. The court accepted 20 out of 31 charges [Al Jazeera report] that were filed [JURIST report] in July by the Bangladesh prosecutors.