Just over a year ago, the Sector Commanders Forum convened in Dhaka and everyone was reminded of exactly what our struggle for freedom entailed. Those who died for our liberation came to light again and after many years, war crimes became an issue of national importance. It became part of two election campaigns in vastly different ways and in the end one might say the party that promised to deal with the issue best was elected to government. A year has passed since those elections, and as is plain to see, those promises have been left untouched. But that is no measure of public opinion nor does it mean civil society is taking the matter lying down. All it means is that the people must now continue to pressurise the government to fulfill their promises and that is a democratic right that needs to be exercised.
Dealing with war crimes is one of the trickiest issues in international law and if we are to take any meaningful steps towards actually trying those accused, there will have to be a concerted effort to simplify and streamline the process. In many ways we cannot afford to let the trial process drag on for too long. It could prove to be expensive financially while also affecting the nation emotionally. While we are proud of the fight we put up in 1971, reliving the war crimes committed against us (as any trial will obviously entail) will most likely be more than just touching a raw nerve. It will be an emotional time in the country, but we must keep looking forward while also finally settling the scores of our past. But for us to get to that stage the people of the nation must hold the government to its word, the process to try alleged war criminals must start properly because justice can no longer be delayed.
Bangladesh has suffered long enough and now we owe it to ourselves to exorcise the ghosts of our past and then move on. The truth of the matter may be that we will never forget the past, but we must stop living in it. The war crimes trials in our country will provide us with a perfect opportunity to commemorate the sacrifices of our martyrs in a profound way. And in doing so we must uphold the letter of the law. Many governments have toyed with our judicial system so much that people have lost hope of a fair trial. When we eventually try our war criminals we must do everything possible to give them a free and fair trial so that the judgement is never questioned and that we can teach our children that the law will ultimately triumph. But the time to act is now, because to delay justice is to deny justice.