The street reaction to the verdict on Quader Mollah case is an interesting indication that public confidence in the trial process and the objectivity of the War Crimes Trial is confused and may lead to questions. Mollah was given a life imprisonment instead of a death sentence for the charges in question and many people have reacted deeply because the expected death verdict was not delivered. It seems the War Crimes Trial is not seen as a justice delivery agency but an agency taking revenge on behalf of the people. The verdict and the reaction are basically therefore political in impact and it leaves less space to explore the events as legal matters outside politics.
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Several reactions are noted in response to the verdict:
‘Jamaat-e-Islami showed their muscle through the continued hartals and their ‘performance’ in that and put everyone on notice that it is capable of high anarchy. This scared the government to tone down the verdict from the expected death sentence to life imprisonment even though the charges had been proved.’ Most reactions are in this basket.
A few of other reactions are:
‘The government toned down the verdict because it wants to be seen as fair so that when Sayedee and others are hanged, people will say that it’s a just verdict. It’s an attempt to gain credibility.’
‘The war crimes trial judges are secret members of an Islamist group and sympathizers of Jamaat who are actually trying to protect JI.’
‘The war crimes trial is fair and legal and they have delivered a fair verdict.’
People can make their choice.
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Media has also played its due role and most newspapers have headlines which tantamount to at least displeasure of the court decision if not contempt. They have been hyping the atmosphere for long and the crowd, duly pumped up, expected nothing short of a death sentence. The Bachchu Razakar verdict was a good build up but while he has a public image, he is not a political leader like Quader Mollah from mainstream Jamaat-e-Islami. So Mollah was expected to be hanged. The result has been a letdown of expectations. The public rage has been about unfulfilled wishes of the people which the media focused on. The result was of course the response and the large pressure that has now built up on the government and the ICT to deliver ‘people friendly’ verdicts.
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The public dismissal of allegations of bias against the War Crimes Trial is a sign that the fair trial issue is not a serious public concern. When the ‘Skype scandal’ was exposed there was not much of public condemnation because it was not seen as a failure of the political process. That a lawyer abroad was helping to write the judgments didn’t bother anyone because it’s not the legal which matters about the trial. When the equation between a court and the people is set on this ground, the reactions are also bound to be like that. As a mechanism of revenge and retribution, its accountability has become to the people more than the cannons of law it seems. It was inevitable given the history, situation and circumstances that surround the war crimes issue for long.
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It does remain a mystery as to why Quader Molla was not given a death sentence if all the charges against him including murder and genocide were proven beyond doubt. However the tribunal is not expected to explain this though given the gravity of the crimes and the success claimed by the prosecution, it’s a bit inexplicable. In such cases, the judges actually do explain the extenuating and mitigating factors that can lead to reduced sentences. In this case this has not happened which is why it has given rise to the speculation that the government has caved in to the sustained pressure created by the Jamaatis and handed a lighter sentence.
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Jamaat-e-Islami doesn’t look scared and that is indeed a scary thought for the days to come. While the AL was busy defending its ‘patriots’ and killing their own supporters and blaming others for it as in the Biswajit killing, it seems the JI had been getting organized. Although some of its claim made to the international media of having 10 million cadres who are ready to lay down their lives, may be exaggerated but clearly they look more robust and ruthless than ever before (Bangladesh War Crimes Court Sentences Islamist Leader to Life, Wall Street Journal, February 5 2013). Jamaat knows this is the end game and so if they go for it and lay down lives, it won’t be out of character. Jamaat did go for that in December 1971, so one does hope that if all the main leaders are hanged, this rather inept government would consider providing security to many including in their bedrooms.
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The police as usual looked pathetic and one feels pity for them as they run away at the sight of an angry Jamaati mob. The fleeing policemen on a van hiding their faces are a sign of their helplessness that is symptomatic of the overall law and order situation. A police force that doesn’t scare the criminal is not seriously worth having, is it?
Jamaatis have also changed their tactics and instead of the conventional mass confrontational political agitations that we are used to seeing, they have gone for ‘guerrilla agitations’, appearing-causing mayhem and disappearing before much is known or the police can react to. It does seem that the JI has spent time thinking about their strategy. We would like to know what the government has thought in terms of containing the Jamaatis.
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The overall mood is sombre because no one is sure what the trials will bring. While the AL activists are not on the street because of the potential to damage the party in power which passed the verdict, others are and so it’s most likely going to wither away soon.
However, the actual fate of the political fallout is less certain and the Jamaat-e-Islami must be happy at their trial outcome and it will certainly embolden them further. The BNP will of course smack its lips seeing the discomfiture of the party in power and lay a waiting game. They will gain more than any others from this situation and hope that the JI will take the game to the enemy’s camp even more.
Much therefore depends on the AL. At the moment it’s not looking terribly in charge and thanks to the impact of the many scandals — political and economic — it’s looking a bit lost. The AL had started its latest innings by promising to try war criminals and bring closure to the agony of 1971. People saw that as a promise to hang the accused war criminals which is why the quality of the evidence or the trial process was never an issue with the public. But as of today, it’s the trying party which is looking like the plan has backfired a bit and the enemy looks revived and ready.
What lies next?
Source: bdnews24 opnions