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ICJ on Jadhav: Time for Bangladesh to go to ICJ for 1971 Genocide

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– Bikash Chowdhury

The recent verdict awarded by The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) directing Pakistan to review the death penalty given in 2017 to Indian national, Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, who was convicted by a military court in Pakistan on allegations of spying, seems to be a victory for India, although Pakistan also claims to be victorious at the verdict.

Jadhav was arrested by Pakistan on March 3, 2016 on the charge that he (Jadhav) was an Indian spy. A Pakistani martial law court found him guilty of espionage and sentenced him to death on 10 April 2017. What is soothing for the Indian side on the recent ICJ verdict is that the death sentence awarded to Jadhav is put on stay till the time the case and conviction are properly reviewed after he (Jadhav) gets consular assistance.

The verdict accepts India’s contention that Pakistan was in material breach of the Vienna Convention on rights to consular access to India. The IJC finding, by 15 votes to 1, that Pakistan is under an obligation to inform Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav without further delay of his rights and to provide Indian consular access to him in accordance with Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. President of the ICJ reading out the verdict ordered an ‘effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav”.

Jadhav’s is a case of one individual person of India. But we saw how Indian government came forward immediately to protect its own citizen, who according to India was kidnapped from Iran while he was on a business tour. Indian government had asked the IJC to intervene in the case alleging that Jadhav had received an unfair trial and Pakistan denied him all diplomatic support. This significant verdict is the outcome of India’s robust diplomatic effort. India pursued the case vigorously from the beginning and engaged the best group of lawyers to fight and win the case and this is a huge diplomatic triumph for India.

This is what a government should act in case its citizen is either wrongfully or rightly held in an alien land and receive judgement which is handed over not by the conventional court but by a military court, where the accused hardly receives any legal assistance particularly in a country like Pakistan where judiciary is in shambles.

Time for Bangladeshi to go to ICJ for 1971 Genocide committed by Pakistan

Justice delayed, justice denied- so goes the saying. Yet nothing is late, as better late than never. Bangladesh has been demanding the trial of Pakistan military on war crimes who were responsible for atrocities and killings of 3 million people in Bangladesh in 1971. Bangladesh’s quest for justice started immediately after its independence in 1971.  Later, in 1973, Bangladesh declared a two-tier tribunal under the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act to try the captured Pakistani Army personnel and their collaborators for violations of the Geneva Conventions, crimes against humanity and genocide. Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said on May 1973 that Pakistan “cannot stomach” trials of POWs alleged to have committed atrocities and threatened Bangladesh with reciprocal action on Bengalis in Pakistan’s custody. Subsequently, Pakistan took 203 Bengalis into custody, anticipating that India and Bangladesh would be forced to handover 195 Pakistani military personnel who were to be prosecuted by the tribunal. Pakistan continued its diplomatic efforts and at the end through the 1974 India-Pakistan-Bangladesh tripartite agreement, it was agreed that all Pakistani military officers in Bangladeshi custody would be released.

Although Bangladesh has not succeeded so far to bring the Pakistan military to justice, it has successfully brought a sizeable number of local war criminals to justice and awarded different sentences. But demand for trial and international recognition of 1971 war criminals continued and importantly, in March 2017 Bangladesh government announced that it would go to the ICJ to try the 195 Pakistani military personnel of those alive for war crimes. To this effect, Bangladesh decided to put Captain Mohammed Shahidullah, a Bengali officer in the Pakistan Army during the war on charges of murder, wrongful confinement and torture along with looting. Bangladesh government also declared in 2017 that it would take the issue to the United Nations to declare 26 March as Genocide Day, the way Armenian Genocide got UN recognition.

There is no doubt that Pakistan will do its best to foil the attempt of Bangladesh to bring the case to the UN body demanding international recognition of 1971 Genocide, the way Turkey tried in vain to scuttle the attempt of Armenia to get international recognition of Armenian Genocide. In that case, Bangladesh needs to present to the international community a strong case and prove beyond any doubt that Pakistan military and their local Bengali collaborators were responsible for the crimes against humanity and the Genocide. Bangladesh government has to launch a vigorous and robust diplomatic campaign globally the way Indian government did in case of an individual person like Jadhav.

Bangladeshi civil society and diasporas have been raising this overdue demand of bringing the Pakistani military to justice by organizing conferences and demonstrations in different parts of Europe including the Netherlands, the seat of International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC). Experts, speakers and members of the victims families in those meetings observed that Pakistan could not accept the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 and is still involved in interfering in the internal affairs of Bangladesh in different forms. The Pakistan Intelligence Agency, ISI was found engaged to manipulate the 2018 December elections in Bangladesh with an aim to bring the elections’ results in favor of its allies, Jamaat e Islami and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). According to Bangladesh counter intelligence sources, the ISI had been maintaining regular communication with the top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP, including the latter’s acting Chairperson Tarique Rahman who lives in London.

On the other hand, a report published in Dhaka Tribune, Jamaat leaders continue to carry out political and organizational activities following Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency directives, according to investigations conducted in light of the agency’s recently amped up activities and involvement in Bangladesh politics. If it succeeds, it would hamper peace, democratic process and progress not only in Bangladesh but also in the whole region. It is high time that the world community is well apprised of the evil designs of Pakistan and actions are taken to preempt such acts conclusively. 22-07-2019

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