A number of anti war crimes campaigners, war heroes and academics have criticised Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), for one of its representatives “undermining the gravity of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi’s war crimes” and what they called “emboldening a culture of impunity that shielded perpetrators of one of the worst cases of war crimes, committed during the Liberation War in 1971.”
The portrayal of convicted war criminal Sayeedi as a “victim of political vendetta” indicates a desperate effort to mislead the world about crimes against humanity perpetrated by him in 1971 as well as overlooks a wave of violence unleashed by Jamaat-Shibir men in the aftermath of his demise, they said.
Also read: War criminal Sayeedi buried in Pirojpur
They also reminded that in 2004, the US Terrorist Screening Center added Sayeedi to its No Fly List that prevents suspected radicals and terrorists from flying into the country.
Referring to US-based Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention’s recognition of the killing of Bangladeshis during 1971 Liberation War as “genocide,” they pointed out that the statement of the AHRC liaison officer also undermined the endorsement.
Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, a Liaison Officer, on behalf of the AHRC & Asian Legal Resource Centre, took part in a recent briefing held by Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission over human rights situation in Bangladesh where he made such “motivated” comments, they said, which “mocks the trauma of families who lost their loved ones at the hands of the Pakistani army and their collaborators like Sayeedi.”
“Sayeedi is an Islamic scholar… Under the Sheikh Hasina government if you belong to the opposition or dissidents, your right to funeral and other rights are not recognized or guaranteed… This is not a new case,” Ashrafuzzaman said in response to a question at the briefing, video of which is available on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission website.
Also read: BNP mourns death of Sayeedi
“Not mentioning the daylong violence including attacks on law enforcers, setting vehicles ablaze, assaulting five journalists over projection of Sayeedi as a war criminal and Jamaat-Shibir men unleashing mayhem in front of one of the busiest hospitals in Dhaka triggering panic among patients made him look like a spokesperson for the mob,” said freedom fighter Ajoy Dasgupta.
He cited a call by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) “demanding a swift investigation of the circumstances surrounding the brutal assaults on the journalists.”
Also read: Protest around ambulance carrying Sayeedi’s body: Jamaat-Shibir activists set motorbikes on fire in Dhaka's Shahbagh
Moreover, he pointed out that Sayeedi was buried at his ancestral home, and his funeral was attended by his followers. “Reality directly contradicts what the AHRC liaison officer claimed regarding the right to funeral not being recognised or guaranteed,” the war hero said.
This kind of statement exposes a lack of complete understanding of the “horrendous war crimes committed on millions by the Pakistan army and Jamaat, the party Sayeedi belonged to,” said Dr Mesbah Kamal, Professor at Department of History, Dhaka University.
This kind of narrative that portrays war criminals as “victims” was earlier peddled by lobbyists hired by Jamaat in western countries, he added.
For five decades, justice eluded the families of millions who lost their loved ones at the hands of war criminals like Sayeedi as impunity was orchestrated by the then BNP-Jamaat government, both Dasgupta and Prof Kamal said.
Months back, a number of the country’s renowned rights activists slammed AHRC after the organization accused the Bangladesh government of launching a “hate campaign” against UN independent experts and rights group Odhikar. Noted human rights activist Advocate Sultana Kamal had pointed out the errors in the UN report on enforced disappearance.
One victim listed by the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh was reportedly a top secessionist leader from Manipur who is living with his family in his ancestral home after serving his jail term in India, according to an India Today report.
The UN Working Group identified Sanayaima Rajkumar, chairman of the Manipur-based extremist group United National Liberation Front (UNLF) as a victim of enforced disappearance in Bangladesh.
The UN Working Group report also listed Keithellakpam Nabachandra alias Chilheiba as a “victim of enforced disappearance” in Bangladesh. Nabachandra was a “major” in the UNLF armed wing.
“Intellectuals and activists like Sultana Kamal, who have worked for decades on the issues of enforced disappearance are well aware of the ramifications of unreliable reporting of these serious human rights issues, and they have correctly pointed out the errors that the UN report published. Asian Human Rights Commission translating these justified concerns into the language of hatred is slanderous and disrespectful, at best. Furthermore, summarily calling Bangladeshi media as ‘pro-government’ also calls into question AHRC's own intentions and impairs the values of freedom of the press,” Prof Dr Mizanur Rahman, former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, wrote.
Sayeedi, a former Jamaat-e-Islami lawmaker from Pirojpur, was handed the death penalty by International Crimes Tribunal-1 in February 2013 after he was found involved in killings in the locality during the Liberation War.
Apart from the murders, the tribunal also found Sayeedi, who earned the nickname "Delu Razakar", guilty of abduction, torture, rape, persecution, looting, forced religious conversions, and setting homes ablaze in rural areas of Pirojpur during the war.
Earlier in 2015, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission questioned the trials against notorious war criminals Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammed Mujahid, echoing the views of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International — triggering condemnation from war heroes and anti war crimes campaigners.