The process of building a society from scratch in the aftermath of any conflict must necessarily involve a judicial intervention. Justice is the surest way to sustainable peace. One may argue that nothing can truly restore losses - but justice offers a way to ensure that those who committed crimes cannot come back to harm the society because they have already been sentenced.
One of the places that most needs a judicial process to try past war crimes is Bangladesh. The birth of the nation involved a harsh struggle that claimed too many lives - as a crime of genocide was allegedly the handiwork of 195 Pakistani military officials who haven’t been tried thus far. Some of the people that even collaborated with the conduct of the war crimes became active politicians and served in governmental posts. In the light of the crimes that unfolded in Bangladesh, a war crimes tribunal is a necessary element in ensuring the delivery of justice that has been long overdue.
The promise of a war crimes tribunal was one of the many things put forth by the ruling party – and this was a linchpin in their attainment of success in the elections. However, the tribunal that did ensue after did not succeed – there were too many outside interventions and the tribunal has been subject to much politicisation, thereby becoming a political weapon for the party in power. This then led to violence.
As is the case with many countries across the world, Bangladesh’s judiciary has no immunities to procedural flaws. It has been politicised, and some in the leadership has had a track record of criminal involvement. Coupled with all of this is the fact that there is no evidence left of the incidents, many of those who could be witnesses in the case are not around anymore, and the trial is likely to hinge on circumstantial evidence, hear say and hand-me-down stories. Consequently, it might make it easier to beat the rules aside and find a way to bend procedure. This would, in turn, give room for more corruption to unfold.
The war crimes tribunal should truly serve the purpose. It needs to cease being a political instrument and evolve as a mechanism that would truly do justice.