Bangladesh is marking the 39th anniversary of its independence from Pakistan -- one day after officials announced a special tribunal for those accused of atrocities during the country's 1971 war for independence, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Zillur Rahman laid wreaths at a national memorial Friday honoring those killed in the fight for independence. Ceremonies also included a 31-gun salute.
On Thursday, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed announced the special tribunal would consist of three judges and would be led by a High Court justice. He told VOA, Bangla service justice has been a long time coming. Ahmed also named the investigating and prosecuting teams that will try those accused of siding with Pakistan and committing war crimes during the struggle.
Bangladesh first began war crimes trials in 1973. However, they were stopped two years later following the assassination of independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. His daughter -- current Prime Minister Hasina -- pledged during her election campaign to resume the prosecution of alleged war criminals.Bangladesh says millions of people were displaced during the nine-month conflict that led to independence in 1971.
Rights groups have also alleged "ethnic cleansing" that targeted a Hindu minority in what was then East Pakistan. The government says the accused will be tried for crimes against humanity, genocide, murder, rape and arson. The trials could begin as early as next month.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution late Thursday encouraging a "strengthening and consolidation of democracy," in Bangladesh a year after elections.The measure also urges the government to work to deepen political reconciliation and protect the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.