Monday, March 23, 2009

Travel ban on Bangladesh suspects

Travel ban on Bangladesh suspects
By Mark Dummett
Source: BBC News, Dhaka

The government of Bangladesh has banned people suspected of war crimes during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan from travelling abroad. It says these people, who are accused of collaborating with Pakistani troops, will face war crime trials.

Among them are leaders of the largest religious party Jamaat-i-Islami - the main rival of the ruling Awami League. Critics say it is a ploy to destroy Jamaat-i-Islami, none of whose leaders has been charged with any crimes.

But two party leaders have already been prevented from leaving Bangladesh.

One of them told the BBC he had not been given any reason for this, and that the government was violating his fundamental rights.

'Last chance'

The Awami League came to power in December, promising to tackle the issue which has haunted and divided Bangladesh since independence.

The new government says it wants to punish those who helped the Pakistan army's brutal attempt to hang on to what was then Pakistan's eastern province.

The government says some three million civilians died and 200,000 women were raped.

The Pakistan army was blamed for most atrocities. But local militias, some allegedly linked to the religious party, Jamaat-i-islami, were accused of helping them.

Many collaborators were jailed, but the issue was quietly dropped as consecutive governments preferred not to reopen old wounds.

Awami League supporters say the government's pledge is the last chance for the generation which lived through the war to see justice.

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