Bangladesh has urged Pakistan to formally apologize for alleged war crimes committed by its armed forces and their collaborators during the 1971 independence war.
Some 90,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered to the Indian army at the end of the war
Bangladesh's Foreign Affairs Minister Dipu Moni on Sunday demanded in a meeting with Pakistan's new envoy to Dhaka that Islamabad apologize for atrocities and acts of genocide allegedly committed by the military of what was then known as West Pakistan during the nine-month 1971 war of independence.
Killings and rape
Bangladeshi civil society supports the trial of the 1971 war criminals
Bangladesh, which was then the eastern wing of Pakistan, claims that Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators from the Islamic Jamaat-e-Islami party, killed an estimated three million people, raped about 200,000 women and forced millions to flee their homes. Islamabad disputes these allegations.
In a statement released by the foreign ministry, Dipu Moni said he sought “Pakistan's understanding and recognition of Bangladesh's position on resolving the outstanding issues including an expression of formal apology from Pakistan for the genocide and atrocities committed by the Pakistani military in 1971."
He added that the early resolution of these outstanding issues were crucial to the “existing friendly relations” between Dhaka and Islamabad and would enable the two countries to “make a great leap forward and create wider space for cooperation.”
Delawar Hossain Sayedee of the Jamaat-e-Islami party is being tried in Dhaka
Meanwhile, the first trial of a Bangladeshi suspect from the 1971 war has opened. Delawar Hossain Sayedee is one of five senior leaders of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party who are currently in jail for allegedly collaborating with Pakistan in war crimes. Two men from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party are also in detention on similar charges. All of them deny the allegations.
The 71-year-old Sayedee has been charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, murder, rape and enslavement, for which he could be hanged if found guilty.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the International Crimes Tribunal, which has no UN oversight or involvement, in 2009, and has since been accused of using it to target her political opponents.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has criticized the tribunal for lacking international standards.
Author: Shamil Shams (AP, AFP)
Editor: Anne Thomas