The war crimes trial has lost two key witnesses in the deaths of Mishuk Munier and Tareque Masud.
The two were listed as witnesses. They were also compiling documents and audio-visual evidence for the investigation agency of the war crimes tribunal.
Mishuk Munier was the only one among his three siblings who saw his father, martyred intellectual Munier Chowdhury, being taken away by collaborators of the Pakistani occupation force on December 14, 1971.
Four decades later, Mishuk, now one of the pioneers of broadcast journalism in the country, had decided to narrate that harrowing experience to the International Crimes Tribunal, formed in March last year for trial of war criminals.
He and Tareque were deeply committed to unearthing the facts about genocide and other atrocities committed during the Liberation War, said those close to the duo.
But before their hard work could translate into conviction of war criminals, something they had longed to see in their lifetime, their lives were cut short by a road crash on Saturday.
A day after their death, The Daily Star learned about their being listed as witnesses in the trial.
“Tareque and Mishuk were not only listed as witnesses, they were advisers to our audio-visual team. We did not disclose it before as it's our policy not to publish names of witnesses and those working as researchers,” said an investigator of the tribunal, requesting not to be named.
Tareque was made a witness because of his extensive work on the war. He travelled across the country, gathering accounts of war crimes victims. Besides, he developed over the years a rich archive of audio-visual materials on the war, said investigation sources.
“The death of these two witnesses is a great loss,” said Haider Ali, a prosecutor of the tribunal.
“Tareque already gave us a lot of footage from his film Muktir Gaan. Hopefully, that will work as strong evidence against those charged with crimes against humanity,” said M Sanaul Huq, an ICT investigator.
“Tareque was supposed to give deposition about genocide and other war crimes, while Mishuk was to testify how his father was picked up by Razakars [collaborators],” said another investigator.
The investigators, however, would not say in which cases the two were made witnesses, citing confidentiality.
The international crimes tribunal started its proceedings on July 26 last year. Five leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and two leaders of BNP are awaiting trial on charges of war crimes.
Sensing defeat, the Pakistan army and their collaborators dragged away teachers, doctors, engineers and journalists from their houses in Dhaka and killed them just two days before the nation won independence after a nine-month bloody war.
The bodies of the martyred intellectuals were dumped at Rayerbazar, Mirpur and a few other places in the city.
Prof Munier Chowdhury was one of them.
Mishuk, then 12, saw from the first-floor balcony of their two-storey building on Central Road in the capital some collaborators taking away his father.
“After 1971, he [Mishuk] could recognise a local collaborator who was in the team that hauled my father out of the house,” said Asif Munier, younger brother of Mishuk.
At that time, Mishuk's elder brother Ahmed Munier Bhashan was on the battlefield.
Grown up, Mishuk collaborated in the making of a number of films based on Liberation War stories. He assisted Tareque to make Muktir Katha (Oral Testimony), a film based on interviews of the war victims.
He was also involved in the production of War Crimes File, another film on the Liberation War, directed by David Bergman in the 1990s.
The war of 1971 was the centrepiece of Tareque's work. His passion for the struggle for independence led him to make Muktir Gaan, a documentary on the cultural activists who travelled around the country to inspire people with their songs of the motherland.
After Muktir Gaan, Tareque, along with his wife Catherine, made two more documentaries--Muktir Katha and Narir Katha.