Seminar in UN Reiterates Demand for Recognition of 1971 Genocide

Geneva, 3 October (OurVoice) : Speakers at a seminar at the United Nations in Geneva reiterated the demand for the international recognition of Bangladesh genocide in 1971 committed by Pakistan and urged the global community including the United Nations to recognise the 1971 genocide without any delay.  

They said, the time is right for recognition of Bangladesh Genocide adding, it is of great importance and an absolute necessity to honour the victims of 1971 genocide and their descendants through recognition. Unfortunately, Bangladesh genocide has today become a forgotten chapter in the history.

Organized by the Europe-based diaspora organisaion BASUG, in collaboration with European Bangladesh Forum (EBF) and Switzerland Human Rights Forum Bangladesh the conference was held at a time when the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council was going on at UN in Geneva. A 2 minutes documentary film made by Amra Ekattor, Projonmo Ekattor and BASUG was screened in the program.

It may be recalled that in 1971 Pakistan military committed one of the worst mass atrocities that the world witnessed in 20th century. The Pakistani occupation army in nine months killed approximately three million people, violated over two hundred thousand girls and women and forced ten million people to cross the border and take shelter in India. The 1971 Genocide by the Pakistan Army is well documented and reported in the international media and also in the diplomatic correspondences during that period.

Chaired by BASUG Chairman Bikash Chowdhury Barua, the side event was addressed by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in Geneva Sanchita Haque, former High Court Justice in Sweden Justice Syed Asif Shakar, Director of Development Research Cooperation, Brussels Professor Tazeen Murshad, Brand ambassador of Bangladesh Daniel Seidl, Communications Director, Zurich Chris Blackburn, exiled Chairman of United Kashmir People’s National Party Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, President of Baloch Voice Association, France Munir Mengal, EBF UK President Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Organising Secretary of All European Muktijoddah  Sangsad Abul Kalam Miah and President of International HR Commission BD, Switzerland Rahman Khalilur Mamun.

Participants in the seminar were members of the Bangladesh community in different European countries, European academics, researchers and human rights activists from other civil society organisations in Europe.

The side event was live telecast by London-based British Bangla News channel and watched in different cities across the world including Dhaka and New York.

Justice Syed Ali Shahkar said, for the international recognition of the 1971 genocide and to ensure justice to the victims and their family members, we must form an international commission including representatives also from Pakistan. Justice Syed Ali Shakar who is originally a Pakistani and now exiled in Sweden is an ardent supporter of Bangladesh and was vehement critic of Pakistan government and the military rule for their roles in Bangladesh in 1971 for which he was sent to jail for six months.

In her speech Deputy Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to UN in Geneva Sanchita Haque said, under the leadership of our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the people of Bangladesh fought against discrimination, injustice, and oppression before their liberation in December 1971. During the culmination of our struggle, the horrendous ‘Operation Search Light’ was carried out by the Pakistani military on 25th March 1971 targeting unarmed civilians. In the following nine months, the Pakistan Army unleashed brutalities including mass murder, rape, looting, and torture upon the civilians, including children and women in a deliberate manner to eliminate the Bengalis from the-then East Pakistan, which is proudly Bangladesh now.

She added, in Bangladesh, International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) was set up to try the collaborators of the Pakistan Army who played a crucial role in facilitating the genocide. And the ICT is still continuing. The Bangladesh Government has declared 25th March as Genocide Day. Bangladesh condemns genocides committed anywhere, everywhere. We will continue to raise our voice against genocide and demand justice and accountability for the victims of genocides. We will also continue working for the recognition of 1971 genocide

Prof Dr. Tazeen Murshid said, the demand for international recognition should never stop. The West Pakistan military sought to destroy Bengalis, their political leadership, the intellectual and professional middle classes, who were the backbone of society, and students, who are the future torch bearers of their heritage. It sought to annihilate the Hindu population, and work with loyalists willing to do its bidding. They thus unleashed their ‘kill and burn’ strategy on the population at large, while recruiting allies from extremist religious groups, Bihari minorities and other loyalists. 

She added, if an international tribunal is not possible, there could be a public trial in a People’s Court, even if no verdict can be carried out. The aim would be to document both individual and collective crimes, to debate them and pass sentences in order to provide a moral victory and closure. Or it could take the form of a Truth Commission. The evidence so gathered should be disseminated widely and at every opportunity.

The Friend of Bangladesh awardee Chris Blackburn said, Bangladesh wants international recognition for the crimes against humanity.  It’s probably the most promising time to achieve that goal. The United Nations like, the United States must also recognise the conflict as genocide, not just acknowledge the bravery of Archer K. Blood for standing up to the Nixon administration. Blood said it was a genocide. The UN should too. He appealed to the international community, history of 1971 is also our future. Please do the right and just thing. Recognise the genocide of 1971. 

Notably, BASUG and European Bangladesh Forum along with the cooperation partners have been continuing advocacy and campaign for about a decade for the international recognition of the 1971 genocide through media talks, seminar, conference Brussels, the Hague, London, Geneva and other European cities.

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