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Pak POWs of '71 Can they be tried in absentia?

By bdnews24.com
27th-Jan-2014       
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Law Minister Anisul Huq says he is exploring whether 195 Pakistan army personnel, released over forty years ago under the Shimla Agreement, can be tried for war crimes.
He said he is seeking to figure out the legalities of the issue. Huq said he has come to know of an initiative to try the 195 Pakistani soldiers for their crimes during Bangladesh's 1971 Liberation War.
Bengali-language daily 'Kaler Kantha' ran a report on Sunday on the issue, whose headline, roughly translated, reads 'Bangladesh to try Pakistani war criminals'.
It claimed the International Crimes Tribunal's investigation agency and prosecution has discussed the issue several times. The 'Kaler Kantha' report said that the 195 prisoners of war were handed over to Pakistan by India under a tripartite agreement involving Bangladesh,India and Pakistan in 1974.
Pakistan had then promised to try these POWs for 'war crimes'-a promise that was never kept. Journalists approached Law Minister Huq on Sunday to find out the government's policy on the issue. "The International Crimes Tribunal is an independent body. I learnt about this step yesterday. I heard an initiative has been taken to try the 195 men who were identified as war criminals in 1973," he said. Huq said he would check whether the initiative to try them would violate the Shimla Agreement under which the Pakistanis had been released. "I don't want to say anything on the issue until and unless I get this clarification," he said.
The Parliament did not clear the agreement. Asked whether it would be an obstacle to the proposed trial, Huq said: "It doesn't matter anymore whether the Parliament passes it or not since the agreement has already been effective.
"Those who were supposed to be released under the agreement, have already been let off. "What I need to look for is whether we can do it (try the Pakistanis) now." Asked how Pakistan nationals would be tried at Bangladesh court, the minister referred to the system of trial in absentia. He said the International Crime Act-1973, with its amendments, allows such trials to take place.

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