Bangladesh has strongly protested the Amnesty International's views on the country's Liberation War, freedom fighters and war crimes trials and demanded formal apology from it as well as retraction of its October 27 press statement.
Dhaka's reaction was conveyed to the Amnesty International (AI) in a Foreign Ministry protest note sent to the organisation on Monday. The content of the note was released to the media Tuesday.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam told the Daily Observer on Tuesday that the government, in its protest note pointed to three particular elements in AI's position as expressed in the statement and which, the government deems, had gone beyond its usual stand, and caused widespread outrage as it suggested that the 'pro-independence forces' in Bangladesh be also implicated for committing 'serious crimes'. "The people of this sovereign county and the government of Bangladesh demanded an immediate retraction of this statement," the State Minister said.
The protest letter said, "This egregious comment is just a brazen insult to the valued freedom fighters and martyrs of Bangladesh's Liberation War and reveals Amnesty International's shallow reading of the history and significance of Bangladesh's Liberation War and its aftermath."
On October 27, the Amnesty International issued a statement to reiterate its principled position against the death penalty, and in the process, questioned the trials and appeals in the cases against two individuals convicted of committing crimes against humanity and genocide during Bangladesh's War of Liberation in 1971. However, the AI issued the statement following the verdict of Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujaheed's death penalty by the upper Court.
"As the two particular cases referred to in Amnesty International's statement remain sub-judice, the government would refrain from making any specific comments in relation to them.
"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, the protest note mentioned," Shahriar Alam said.
Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury has been found guilty of nine out of 23 charges, including abduction, torture and the killing of some 200 civilians in collaboration with the occupying Pakistan army, the government says.
Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujaheed has been found guilty of four of out seven charges, including murder, the protest note mentioned.
The protest letter said, the Amnesty International opposes the death penalty and thus condemns any process - no matter how legal or transparent - that arrives at such a verdict. "Even then, it raises its concerns over the death penalty only on a selective basis, especially for convicts with finance and international clout."
The government statement mentioned that there is thus no reason to consider the 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."
Throughout the statement in question, the Amnesty International makes sweeping comments about the alleged miscarriage of justice or lack of fair trial standards, the government says.
"Without going into any specificity, the repetition of the same allegations without substance has only exposed the organization's entrenched bias in favour of the convicts, and its ulterior motive in serving the latter's interest which has failed to draw the attention of the wider international audience."
The only argument put forward about the perceived "haste" does not hold since the trial proceedings have moved through its subsequent stages in adherence to all standard judicial norms and procedures, the protest note reads.
"It's unacceptable that the 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."
It said the Amnesty International has joined a selected few, especially the defendants and their political sympathizers, to project the convicts as 'opposition leaders'.
"This is an easy and cheap ploy to give the trials political favours. Even a casual reading of the trial proceedings and verdicts would make it obvious that the political affiliation of the convicts had never been an issue in these cases."
It said the courts had almost religiously taken into consideration the crimes committed by the defendants at the time of the War in 1971, and nothing beyond.
Mujaheed, the protest note reads, actively collaborated with the Pakistan Army and held command position of Al Badr, a ruthless death and torture squad modeled on Hitler's SS. He was found to have led the wholesale slaughter of Bangladesh's leading intellectuals in the last days of the War.
"The government and people of Bangladesh consider it unfortunate that the Amnesty International has enlisted itself with those quarters," it said.
The government says 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.