In a protest note sent to Amnesty headquarters in London on Friday, the government said the watchdog in its October 27 statement went beyond its usual stand, and caused widespread outrage by suggesting that the “pro-independence forces” in Bangladesh be also implicated for committing “serious crimes”.
“This egregious comment is just a brazen insult to the valued freedom fighters and martyrs of Bangladesh’s Liberation War and betrays Amnesty International’s shallow reading of the history and significance of Bangladesh’s Liberation War and its aftermath.
“This is exactly the kind of misleading propaganda run by those who opposed Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, continue to work against Bangladesh’s sovereignty and independence, and remain on the side of those convicted of crimes against humanity and genocide,” read the government note.
The Amnesty in its statement reiterated the organisation’s principled position against the death penalty, and in the process, questioned the trials and appeals in the cases against BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed, who have been convicted of committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.
About the AI’s stand on war crimes cases, the Bangladesh government said it is a sad reality that the perpetrators of the mass atrocity crimes during the Liberation War were allowed to gain political and economic strength over the years and make systematic attempts to change the narratives about their past.
They unleashed their full force to create an environment of terror and violence to destabilise the country and foil the trials, resort to selective murders and attacks on witnesses and campaigners of the trials, and run an international campaign through certain quarters to undermine the trials, added the note.
“The government and people of Bangladesh consider it unfortunate that Amnesty International has enlisted itself with those quarters. It becomes obvious from its latest [as well as previous] statement that, under the pretext of opposing the death penalty, Amnesty International has resorted to projecting the trials as politically biased and motivated.”
In so doing, the AI has moved away from the stand of an impartial observer and commentator, and has made a choice to repeat the arguments of the defendants as well as the local and international detractors who have a vested interest in disrupting the trials, the government said.
The fact that most of the defendants happen to be members of different opposing political parties is a mere coincidence as far as the trials are concerned. Even then, the fact that some ruling party or coalition members are also standing trials was conveniently glossed over by Amnesty, mentioned the note.
It said without going into any specificity, the AI made sweeping comments about the alleged miscarriage of justice or lack of fair trial standards. “It is unacceptable that Amnesty International assumes the prerogative to make value judgments about an independent judiciary and its conduct in a manner that reeks of utmost irresponsibility, unaccountability, and condescension.”
Amnesty, said the government, opposes the death penalty, but it raises its concerns over the punishment only on a selective basis, especially for convicts with finance and international clout.
“There is thus no reason to consider Amnesty International as an unbiased arbiter of the judicial process. Any claims it makes, such as calling the ICT-BD flawed, must be viewed through that lens, and treated with skepticism,” read the protest note.