Persons, not party, responsible for war crimes: Rapp


Stephen Rapp

Stephen Rapp, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crime Issues, is opposed to any particular party being tried by the International Crimes Tribunal. He says that individuals were involved in crimes against humanity in 1971, not any party. That is why if a party is tried instead of persons, the ultimate objective of attaining peace and harmony in Bangladesh may not be achieved.

Stephen Rapp was speaking yesterday at a press briefing held at the American centre in the city. He arrived in Dhaka yesterday, Monday, on a three-day visit. He presented his views about the present status of the crimes against humanity trial, following discussions with several ministers, judges of the tribunal and lawyers of the defence.

When asked whether it would be correct to hold Jamaat-e-Islami, as a party, responsible for committing crimes against humanity in 1971, Stephen Rapp said, “I do not want to mention any specific names in this regard. However, I do not think it is wise to apply the law in order to prove a political party guilty or to use the criminal procedure in this regard. It is not proper to accuse a political party as guilty. If the legal process focuses on the individuals, this will help in social restructuring. I do not think it is positive to focus on a party.”

At the outset of the press conference Stephen Rapp said that he had come to Dhaka to speak to the concerned persons about what state the trial process was at presently. While the US government supports the trial of war crimes, there were questions regarding the procedure. He has made certain recommendations in this regard. The Bangladesh government has accepted some of the recommendations and rejected some.

Rapp said there was scope to improve the trial procedure and raise it to an international standard. That was why he had a mixed reaction to the overall process. However, he praised the judges of the tribunal for rising above “political pressure and various threats” in discharging their duties.

During discussions with Rapp on Monday night, lawyers of the defence proposed that the trial be shifted to a third country, outside Bangladesh. When asked about this, Rapp said, “The lawyers had suggested that the trial be shifted to a tribunal of the UN comprising international judges of a third country. They wanted the US to put pressure on the Bangladesh government in this regard. However, I personally feel that the process is going ahead at a national level. It would not be realistic to respond to such a proposal at this stage. They were disappointed at my stand in this regard.”

Stephen Rapp reiterated the US stand concerning death sentence. He said, “The US expressed its concern at the law being amended to hang Abdul Quader Mollah. The US feels that the death sentence should not be given other than in very special cases. This requires irrefutable proof beyond doubt. That is why we had recommended a life term rather than death sentence in January 2011.”

In reply to questions about the Israeli attack on Palestinian people in Gaza, Stephen Rapp said that the US government was striving for a ceasefire. The US expected and supported a proper inquiry into the events at Gaza.

On the second day of his visit, Stephen Rapp called upon Foreign Minister AH Mahmud Ali at the latter’s office. Later in the afternoon he met with Law Minister Anisul Huq.

In a press note, the Foreign Ministry stated that, during the meeting, the Foreign Minister had referred to the Nuremberg trial and other international tribunals. The minister said that even though Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal was a national one, it was always endevouring to maintain international standards.

Source: Prothom Alo