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Law amended for war crime trials

Law minister hopes trial starts in a month

The House passed a bill unanimously yesterday incorporating a number of new provisions into the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act, 1973 to try any individual or group of individuals on charge of war crimes in 1971.

Legal experts say with inclusion of the new provision, trial of a political party that worked against the liberation of Bangladesh could also be held on the same charge.

As the bill is passed, the trial of war criminals may begin in a month, according to Law Minister Shafique Ahmed.

There are provisions for trying members of the armed forces and their auxiliary forces under the 1973 Act.

Another new provision included in the Act also empowers the government to file appeals with the Appellate Division against acquittal order of a tribunal.

Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shafique Ahmed, who placed the bill on Wednesday, proposed passage of the bill and the House passed it unanimously.

The bill was sent to the parliamentary standing committee on law ministry for scrutiny. The parliamentary body completed its task yesterday morning and placed its report before the House last night with recommendation for its passage.

"The nation will get rid of war criminals and razakars once the trial of them is completed," comments the parliamentary body in its report.

The entire nation is united for holding the trial of war criminals, said Speaker Abdul Hamid while disposing an amendment proposal to the bill by Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Oli Ahmed.

The parliament has also reached a consensus on this issue, the Speaker added.

He requested the LDP lawmaker to withdraw his proposal as the law minister did not agree to accept it and he [Speaker] also did not want to give it on vote to decide.

Oli finally withdrew his amendment proposal.

The new bill says a person who is a judge, or qualified to be a judge, or has been a judge of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh may be appointed as the chairman or a member of a tribunal.

Oli had earlier proposed to drop the phrase "or qualified to be a judge".

The bill also includes a new clause in the definition chapter of the Act. The new clause says "armed forces" means the forces raised and maintained under the Army Act, 1952, the Air Force Act, 1953 or the Navy Ordinance, 1961.

In defence of the amendment to the Act, the law minister said the present government needs to amend the existing Act to make it up to date since it is determined to hold the trial of the war criminals.

He said if the trial is held under the amended Act it would be fair, transparent and acceptable to all.

The tribunal should function independently to ensure fair trial, the bill says.

Earlier yesterday, the law minister expressed the hope of starting the long-standing trial of war criminals in one month once the bill is passed.

The minister said this while talking to reporters at his Secretariat office. No more obstacles will remain if the amendments to the law are passed, he added.

The House also passed the Supreme Court Judges (Remuneration and Privileges) Ordinance, 1978 (Amendment) bill.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith placed two bills -- one sought to enact a new law titled "Insurance Controlled Authorities Act" and another to amend the Insurance Act, 1938.

The bills were sent to the parliamentary standing committee on finance ministry for scrutiny.

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