NEW YORK - The work of the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal on the 1971 war atrocities Thursday came under strong criticism from a leading American newspaper, which depicted it as ‘an instrument of partisan revenge than as a forum for impartial justice.’
‘Any criticism of it is reflexively taken as criticism of the governing Awami League and, by absurd extension, of the emergence of Bangladesh itself as an independent nation,’ The New York Times said in an editorial:’Unsolved Atrocities in Bangladesh.’ Noting the court’s particular sensitivity about the number of Bangladeshis killed in that struggle, the Times pointed out that a Bagladesh-based British journalist David Bergman was slapped with contempt charges for reporting that figures mentioned in this regard were disputed.
The official number in Bangladesh is three million, but while scholars agree that far too many were murdered in 1971, some believe the number is lower, the Times said. The editorial said, ‘The court also has tried people in absentia, without the benefit of a credible defence, and then sentenced them to death. It is an absurd irony that another of the contempt charges leveled against Mr. Bergman is for the regret he expressed that the trial, conviction and death sentence against Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, a British resident, took place in absentia.
The court had based its charges against Mr. Mueen Uddin largely on information revealed in Mr. Bergman’s 1995 documentary film, ‘War Crimes File’. ‘Embarrassed by reports about Mr. Bergman’s plight, the International Crimes Tribunal has instituted a gag order against the press. Muzzling the press will only further erode the reputation of the court, whose contempt for international standards of justice appears to know no bounds.’