Boost to justice


The process of bringing to justice the killers of former Bangladesh President, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has received a boost with the country’s Supreme Court upholding the death sentence awarded by a lower court to five of them. Sheikh Mujib was assassinated barely four years after he led his people to freedom from Pakistani rule.

Almost his entire family was wiped out in the massacre. His secular beliefs and close ties with India prompted his killers to eliminate him. The Supreme Court decision upholding the death sentence to the assassins  has taken Bangladesh 34 years to reach this point. Successive governments, especially those led by the generals and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, did their utmost to protect the killers, even rewarding them with diplomatic assignments. It is the persistent campaign of secular Bangladeshis and the determination of the Awami League that has resulted in the verdict.

However, only two of the killers are in the governments custody.  The whereabouts of the others are not known. They are rumoured to be living in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Libya. Unfortunately, Bangladesh does not have extradition treaties with these countries. Whether they will admit to the sanctuary they have provided the assassins remains to be seen.

The death sentence to Mujibs killers will provide hope for those who are anxious to see the 1971 war criminals brought to justice. They participated in the mass rapes and massacres against their own countrymen. As in the case of the Mujib murder, the collaborators -- many of them belong to the Islamic parties and were allies of the BNP government -- have been roaming free for almost four decades. An early attempt to try the war criminals was snuffed out with the assassination of Mujib.

Last year, a platform of 1971 war veterans revealed that 11,000 indicted war criminals were released from jail a few months after Mujib's assassination. Clearly, there is a link between the war criminals and those who wanted to see Mujib dead. The sentencing of Mujib’s killers must be taken to its logical conclusion. The wounds inflicted by the events of 1971 and 1975 are yet to heal. Justice will speed the healing process.

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