Convention on Crime Against Humanity ends

The two-day National Convention on Crime Against Humanity concluded yesterday with a Declaration demanding that the government immediately halt the ongoing violence, repression and terror on the people and stop political and religious persecution.

The convention also demanded trial of the perpetrators of the crimes and their protectors by a special tribunal both under national and international law.

The Declaration, adopted at the end of the convention yesterday evening and read out by its co-convener Barrister Amirul Islam, accused the government of failing to ensure the security of life and property and the dignity of the religious minorities in spite of repeated appeals and said that the government, therefore, "must be held accountable."

It called upon all political parties and the civil society to "come forward in a united manner" and mount pressure on the government to bring an end to the atrocities "so that the confidence, trust and sense of security among those who have been tortured, molested, violated and made homeless, be restored."

The convention appealed to the international community to express its solidarity and share the concern with the victims of the crime and against humanity.

The declaration said that systematic political and religious persecution was pursued by the four-party alliance government allowing the same to be perpetrated with impunity.

"Widespread systematic attacks, having consistency in pattern are taking place simultaneously all over Bangladesh, evidence of terrorism being committed in a planned and orchestrated manner indicating implementation of a blueprint to change the political and demographic mosaic of the country. It also reveals the motive behind the whole action, which is evidently both political and religious persecution", it said.

The convention called upon the government to stop the process of "political and religious cleansing" so that the free will of the people could assert and could enjoy their freedom of choice on the basis of free flow of information in an atmosphere of peace and democracy.

The convention was organised by a 551-member national committee representing the country’s civil society to spotlight the repression and atrocities on supporters of opposition political parties and religious minority communities.

The convener of the national committee, Justice KM Sobhan, presided over the concluding session held under a huge canopy erected on the IEB premises. Over 5,000 people, including 1600 delegates from all districts, attended the session where Co-convener Barrister Amir-Ul Islam read out the ‘Declaration : An Agenda for Survival & Human Dignity.’

Four foreign delegates - former Speaker of Nepalese Parliament Dr Dhaman Nath Dhungana, a teacher of Tribhuban University of Nepal poet Dr Banira Giri, President of the American Jurists Association, Canadian Chapter, Dr William Sloan, and former Minister for International Cooperation and Development of Belgium Dr Reginal Morrels - also addressed the session expressing solidarity with the Declaration.

It was also participated by more than 100 victims who were maimed and injured or violated. Of them, 50 came onto the stage to share their traumatic experiences they had in a spell of post-poll violence in different places in the country.

The Declaration expressed serious concern over the widespread and systematic atrocities committed on the minorities, particularly Hindus, and also on the supporters and workers of the Awami League, the major contestant in the last election.

The Declaration said: "The convention comes to the conclusion that these crimes are perpetrated and orchestrated all over the country at the behest of the Four-Party Alliance, now in power, and that the law enforcing agencies and the administration at all levels are made bystanders, victims and their families having no access to law nor any redress while the entire administration is made fearful of their jobs and posting, due to indiscriminate forced retirement, transfer and arbitrary proceedings drawn on grounds of their past political association."

Referring to the atrocities on religious minorities, the Declaration held the government responsible for failing to protect their life, property and dignity.

About systematic violation of women as tools of political persecution, the Declaration said it must be stopped by adopting a comprehensive policy for strict law enforcement mechanism.

A total of 14 papers were presented at five working sessions of the National Convention on Crime Against Humanity held yesterday at the Institute of Engineers and CIRDAP auditorium.

Three sessions were held in the morning on ‘Crime Against Humanity: Women and Democracy’, Criminilisation of Politics’ and ‘Terrorism: Strategic Dimension’.

Two other sessions were held in the afternoon on, ‘Combating Violence and Terrorism: Role of State, Political Party’ and ‘Role of Civil Society, Media and Education.’

Speakers at the morning session of the convention said state patronage and absence of democracy had created the environment for criminalisation of politics. They said the criminalisation of politics in Bangladesh was a result of military rule and their so-called demilitarisation process.

Noted political scientist Dr Harun-or-Rashid presented a keynote paper on "Criminalisation of Politics in Bangladesh: An Overview."

Former minister AMA Muhith presented a paper titled "Election Held Hostage to Money and Muscle Power in Bangladesh". Noted journalist Shahryar Kabir presented a paper on "Communal Persecution and Newspapers".

Acting Editor of Daily Sangbad Bazlur Rahman, former Vice-Chancellor of Jahangirnagar University Abdul Bayes and General Secretary of the Bangladesh Economic Association Prof Abul Barakat, noted journalists Santosh Gupta and Habibur Rahman Milon participated in the discussion on the papers.

Prof Shamsul Huda Harun presided over the session.

Dr Harun-or-Rashid said granting of indemnity to the killers of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, through the indemnity ordinance by the then government on September 26, 1975 and the cold blooded murder of four national leaders in the Dhaka Central jail on November 3, 1975 were two glaring examples of the state's patronage of barbaric acts.

Bazlur Rahman said though there was no military rule in the country now, the party and persons created through military rule were still vitiating the political environment in the country.

AMA Muhith said in the elections money was used not simply to popularise the message of the candidate but also to smear and run down the opponent. He said money was essential for assembling goons known as mastans to capture polling stations and intimidate voters supporting rival candidates.

Prof Abdul Bayes said democratic institutions were not working properly in Bangladesh. He said military rules paved the way for terrorism and muscle power.

Prof Abul Barakat said election had become an investment whose returns were unlimited and unpredictable. He said the investment was in most cases black money.

He said 20,00,000 acres of the land of minority communities have been grabbed during the last 35 years.

Prof Barakat said Bangladesh received Tk 1,80,000 crore in foreign aid since independence and 75 per cent of the money was plundered by only 5,00,000 influential people. He said the biggest loan defaulter was no individual but the government itself.

Shahryar Kabir said since 1947 communal violence was a one-sided attack by the majority Muslim community on the minority Hindu community.

Santosh Gupta said the BNP-Jamaat government was trying to take Bangladesh back to Pakistani ideology.

Speakers at the afternoon session of the National Convention on Crime against Humanity yesterday put main emphasis on a broad-based unity of democratic, progressive and pro-independence forces to launch a tougher resistance movement to bring an end to terrorism, repression, atrocities and crime against humanity prevailing in the country after the October 1 general election.

They also called upon political parties loyal to the concept of independence to consolidate their unity for safeguarding the spirit of the Liberation War and for protecting the sovereignty and independence of the country which they feared was not safe at the hands of the BNP-Jamaat alliance government.

Speaking at the session on "Crime Against Humanity: Global scenario; Combating Violence and Terrorism in Bangladesh", they criticised the international community, particularly neighbouring India, for remaining silent at a time when crime against humanity was taking place in Bangladesh.

They were also critical of the role of the main opposition Awami League for its failure to protect the life and property of the victims and the members of the minority communities from repression, atrocities and violence.

The speakers favoured trial of the perpetrators of repression, atrocities and suppression by an international tribunal.

They called upon the organisers of the convention to arrange such conventions in all districts to create awareness about the destructive aspect of such violence.

Three papers on the topic were presented in this session by former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University Prof A K Azad Chowdhury, eminent journalist Wahidul Huq and a former professor of Dhaka University Dr B K Jahangir. Dr Hamida Banu, a professor of Dhaka University, presided over the session.

Former Vice-Chancellor of Rajshahi University Prof Sayedur Rahman, Prof Shahidul Islam of Rajshahi University, Mofidul Huq, President of the Rajshahi University Teachers Association, Prof Mizanuddin of Rajshahi University, and the President of the Bangladesh Peace Council Ali Aksad took part in the discussion on the papers.

In his paper, Prof A K Azad Chowdhury pointed out that the United Nations had also become hostage in the hands of big powers in implementing the UN Charter on Crime against Humanity that had taken place in many countries, including Rwanda and Bosnia. He was of the opinion that for combating violence and terrorism in Bangladesh, proper education, tolerance and solving the unemployment problem would be the prerequisites.

Wahidul Huq laid importance on launching a cultural revolution in the country to re-establish a secular society free from terrorism, violence, repression and exploitation.

Dr B K Jahangir said that after terrorism began in late October last year, well over 30,000 Hindus fled to India, more than 1,000 women were raped, over 185 political opponents were killed, more than 5,260 injured and over 4,000 houses were burnt. He said, "These are human rights abuses and these abuses are perpetrated by the government against its own people."

AL-sponsored HR convention part of plot against democracy, says Moudud

Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed yesterday blasted the Awami League-sponsored convention "Crimes Against Humanity" calling it part of a plot against the country’s democratic process, reports BSS.

"The party is out to undo the democratic process of the country in the name of Human Rights Convention," he said while addressing the golden jubilee function of Amar Ekushey organised by Jatiyatabadi Samajik Sanstritik Sangstha (JSSS) Dhaka University (DU) unit at Ramna Batmul here.

Vice-Chancellor of Jahangirnagar University Prof Jasimuddin Ahmed, and pro-VC of National University Prof Khalilur Rahman attended the function as special guests. It was chaired by Salauddin Bhuiyan Shishir, president of JSSS DU unit.

The minister alleged that the past politics of Awami League was always against humanity saying the party suspended the basic rights of the people through the fourth-amendment to the Constitution and established one party BAKSAL rule in 1975, snatched the freedom of speech and the press, and destroyed the image of the judiciary.

"Awami League which has been identified as number one violator of human rights for its misrule, corruption and terrorism during last five years, is now out to establish falsehood as truth in the name of convention," he said.

Barrister Moudud added that the people of the country would not accept their "propaganda" and that the party would not be able to avert its responsibilities by holding the convention.

Central General Secretary of JSSS Babul Ahmed and other leaders including Kader Gani Chowdhury, Sirajul Islam Khan, Nahin Ahmed, Fayezullah Fayez, K. M. Khaleduzzaman Juwel, and Advocate Mahafuzur Rahman addressed among others.