Rebuttal of propaganda spread through The Toronto Star

অদ্বিতীয়'s picture
Submitted by auditio [Guest] on Mon, 01/04/2013 - 12:26pm

This document is a rebuttal of propaganda being spread through Canadian media. This particular article was published in the newspaper The Toronto Star on March 31, 2013. The article can be read here.

In the article in question, the writer very carefully avoided naming any names for the accused and convicted war criminals and the political party that is inciting the recent carnage in Bangladesh while putting the blame for everything on the ruling political party. While he mentions that the Pakistani army and local collaborators were responsible for the genocide in 1971, he tactfully avoided mentioning that the local collaborators were primarily member of Jamaat-e-Islam (JIB), an Islamist party who were agains the liberation of Bangladesh. While he brings up other names such as Dr. Yunus, which had no relevance to the topic of discussion, he failed to name Golam Azam, Delawar Hossain Sayidee or Quader Mollah, the accused and convicted war criminals who are in the the center of all this debate. There were no words about JIB and their student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, who unleashed a violence unprecedented in scale in Bangladesh after the 3rd verdict. There were no mention of targeted attacks on law enforcement forces, religious minorities and state and public establishments by these groups. After reading the whole article it may seem these omissions were not at all accidental.

Diving down to specifics that is misleading the readers:

A war-crimes tribunal has convicted three people for inciting or aiding and abetting abduction, torture, rape and death squads. It is weighing the fate of seven others.

The convicted criminals did not merely incite crimes against humanity, they lead those crimes to execution. The author of the article perhaps haven't read the verdicts at all.

This has unleashed mass demonstrations and strikes, marred by violence in which more than 100 people have been killed. Tens of thousands are protesting the death sentence handed to two defendants. They question the credibility of the tribunal, as do several human rights groups, domestic and international. Others are demanding something different, a death sentence for the third defendant given “only” a life term.

The author emphasizes on the number of people protesting against the death sentence, which is the highest punishment allowable within the Bangladeshi legal and judicial system, while conveniently forgetting to mention the ongoing Shahbag movement that inspired hundreds of thousands of people spontaneously gathering at Shahbag square since February 5th observing a peaceful protest demanding highest punishment for war criminals ( This movement has gained worldwide support from Bangladeshis around the world since (Including Canada

Furthermore,The writer claimed that the Shahbag movement was triggered when "the third defendant given “only” a life term", with an emphasis on the "only". If it wasn't for his obvious political bias towards the Islamists extremists and their war criminal leaders, he could have very well mentioned that the general people erupted in Shahbag protesting the verdict, when they saw Qader Mollah (the third defendant) was convicted for his links in the rape of an 11 year old and in the killing of over 300 civilians and still did not get the maximum allowable punishment. Mollah in fact showed a victory sign with his fingers sporting a complacent smirk. If someone shows victory sign after getting life sentence, any fool would see something going awry.

It was said that 300,000 people had been killed. The figure has been steadily revised upward since. The present Bangladesh government puts it at 3 million dead and 200,000 raped.

The author puts no referencing whatsoever behind his claim that the initial death count mentioned was 300,000 and then he insinuates that the number has since been doctored to go up to the numbers that the current Bangladeshi government presents. When the fact is, even in May 14 1971, The Baltimore Sun reported 0.5 million people being dead and National Geographic reported the number of death to be 3 million in Sept. 1972 during liberation war. A partial survey conducted in 18 out of 64 districts right after the war confirmed over 1.2 mil casualties.

The general who replaced Rahman was himself assassinated in 1981. Rahman’s daughter (Sheikh Hasina) and the general’s widow (Khaleda Zia) have since taken turns being elected prime minister, twice each. With their dynastic rivalries, the “Battling Begums” can’t stand each other.

The author seemed to have forgotten about the regime of Hussain Muhammad Ershad from 1983 - 1990 and his tone shows prejudice towards female leadership. Indeed, for a long time Bangladesh has been led by two prominent political leaders who happen to be women. Given prevalent gender discrimination against women worldwide, it is not a surprise that many people couched the political conflict in Bangladesh in terms of gendered relations. But it is completely unexpected to see publication of gender biased statements like calling the current and former Prime Ministers as the 'Battling Begums' by any reputable media.

In the 2008 election, Hasina made a comeback. Fulfilling a campaign promise, she set up the grandly titled International Crimes Tribunal, which is decidedly not international in either composition or legal standards. It has been accused of irregularities, initially by the Economist, the British newsmagazine.

The 'grandly titled' International Crimes Tribunal does not intend to be international and cannot be criticised on the grounds that its name is misleading. The International refers to the 'nature' of crimes, meaning they are recognised as 'international crimes', a technical term which hasn't made its mark in the author's understanding yet. The trial is, clearly stipulated in all documentation, to be a domestic trial. So this contempt and criticism does not stand, and is based solely on poor knowledge of the tribunal.

The tribunal chair exchanged emails with a Brussels-based lawyer of Bangladeshi origin who coached the prosecutors. The chair hinted at a guilty verdict before all the testimony had been heard. He reported being under intense government pressure to finish early — “the government has gone totally mad. It’s absolutely crazy for a judgment.”

Here the author is referring to an illegally obtained unverifiable Skype conversation and e-mails which was published by the Economist (news media that is well known for their Jamaat backed lobbying) and then presenting his own interpretation of the discussion as a fact . In those conversations, after mentioning the political pressure, the judge also allegedly discussed how he RESISTED the pressure, showing that even under the political strain put on tribunals throughout the world, the ICT, an independent body created by but then separated from the government, was aiming to retain its integrity and avoid collusion at all costs. The author also forgot to mention that despite the fact that no law was broken during this discourse, tribunal chair Nizamul Haque had resigned in order to keep the tribunal free of debate.

A witness for the defence was kidnapped, literally from the doorstep of a hearing. A three-member panel convicted a defendant even though one of the judges had heard only partial evidence and another heard none at all.

The allegedly kidnapped witness was originally a witness for the prosecution who disappeared from witness accommodation and was missing, travelling in and out of Bangladesh for months, only to turn up among defence lawyers. He went missing once again as a defence witness but it was never proven that he was anywhere near the courtroom at that time. Neither of these absences have been explained. The defence spectacularly failed to explain how a witness for the prosecution, whose absence was reported to the police, appeared within their realms without having the police notified in the first place.

Hasina lent credence to the charge by recently expanding the power of the tribunal to go after groups and parties, not just individuals, opening the door to outright bans. She also changed the law to let the government appeal the tribunal’s ostensibly light sentences, and seek the death penalty, retroactively.

In the first part of the quote author is deliberately being deceptive by withholding the name of the political parties he is lobbying for. The political party in question here is Jamaat-e-Islami, who was against the liberation of Bangladesh and still harbours anti-Bangladeshi extremist Islamist ideologies. Like the Nazis in Germany, they can be and must be tried for their role in one of the most viscious atrocities committed in the twentieth century.

Also, the change to appeal the verdict applies to BOTH the defence and the prosecution. It is not just for the prosecution to seek death sentences. The defence is exercising their right to appeal just as much as the government is.

She scolded the judges that “they must listen to public opinion,” which she is busy whipping up.

This statement clearly goes to show the bias and the intentions of the author. He sympathizes with the protest crying about the innocence of convicted war criminals while belittling the Shahbag movement which was initiated independent of any political involvement. In fact, leaders of Awami League (who expressed solidarity with the movement while the main opposition never took any proper stand against war criminals or express solidarity with the Shahbag movement) were thrown out of the stage. It reflects a public opinion separate from that of the government. While Shahbag always tried to remain non-partisan, the author of this article clearly isn't.

The Islamic party did oppose the formation of Bangladesh but it denies any role in genocide. Those charged need a fair trial. That’s why the tribunals that probed war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda had credibility.

The trials in Yugoslavia and Rwanda have been heavily criticized in the aftermath for political slants that lead the victorious parties to receive less punishment than the non-victorious. As with all trials.There are many articles criticizing them. There is even large quantities of research criticizing South Africas Truth and Reconciliation commission for not providing the black victims with sufficient justice, giving amnesty to their prosecutors.

The current International Criminal Court’s mandate dates back only to 2002. That’s why special tribunals had to be set up to probe the horrors of Cambodia and Sierra Leone, at the request of those two nations. But no such request is forthcoming from Bangladesh, for reasons of cost (annual budget for the Cambodia commission — $44 million a year) and, mostly, controlling the inquiry.

The reason Bangladesh has not resorted to ICC is because it is a sovereign country and has passed a law in parliament to try the perpetrators of 1971 on its own soil as early as in 1973. Bangladesh has a strong and steady judicial system to take care of this trial and therefore does not require international interference, a system which countries like Cambodia or Yugoslavia or Rwanda lacked. In fact, under international law, it is Bangladesh's national responsibility to the international community to set up a tribunal.

And once again the author fails to back his conviction of lack of funding and conspiracy to control the trial. The writer cannot infer such a thing, it is a placing of blame and intent drawn largely from the author's imagination.

Courtesy: Becka Hudson, Arman Rashid, Khairul Chowdhury, Jyotirmoy Banik, Asif Islam Khan, Iftekhar Naim and Sachal Himu


Meem Mahmud's picture

Great rebuttal! Has this been submitted to the Toronto Star? If not yet, the article might be made stronger by including some citation, for example, which international law makes it the country's national responsibility to set up a tribunal. (I'm trying to find it myself for your use, but getting overwhelmed by all these laws!!) Anyway, very good effort, I commend all of you. I hope the the international audience, especially the editor of the newspaper, reads it. Thanks a lot হাসি

অদ্বিতীয়'s picture

People have been tweeting about it and addressing the tweets towards the editors. Feel free to help out with citations! Thanks you very much for your feedback


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