Shamsuddin Ahmed is of Bangladeshi nationality. He was born on 12 July 1956 in the Bangladeshi village of Karimganj. He obtained an education degree in 1995 from Mymensingh Teachers Training College. He worked as a teacher in Primary School until 2004, when he retired. He then enrolled to the Mymensingh District Bar Association as an Advocate.
He joined the pro-Pakistani force Razakar Bahini at the outset of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War with his brother, Nasiruddin Ahmed.
Allegedly, during the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh, Ahmed and his brother contributed to instances of arson, looting, murder, genocide, and kidnapping while working in the Kishoreganj region of Bangladesh.
He was allegedly involved in the killing of eight people and injuring of another in the villages of Ayla, Bidyanagar and Karimganj on 12 November 1971.
On 23 August, 7 and 26 September 1971 he was reportedly involved in the abduction and killing of a number of civilians.
Ahmed was arrested on 28 November 2014 in Kishorenganj, Bangladesh, after the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) filed charges against him and his brother, for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
Ahmed was arrested on 28 November 2014 in Kishorenganj, Bangladesh, after the ICT filed charges against him and his brother, Nasiruddin Ahmed, for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
The ICT began investigating the case on 6 June 2014 and completed the investigation in November 2015.
According to this investigation, Ahmed and his brother allegedly joined the armed forces at the beginning of the Liberation War and were allegedly involved in various crimes against humanity in Karimganj Thana. Ahmed was brought before the officer-in-charge in Kishoreganj, Bangladesh police station and was detained awaiting formal proceedings.
On 12 October 2015 the ICT framed the charges against Ahmed and four other accused. Ahmed was accused of abduction, torture, killing and other inhumane acts. He pleaded not guilty to these charges.
The trial started on 4 November 2015 and the hearings were closed on 11 April 2016.
On 3 May 2016 the ICT sentenced him to death for crimes against humanity. He was found responsible for abductions, torture and killings.
Ahmed filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on 2 June 2016.
THE 1971 BANGLADESH LIBERATION WAR
The 1947 partition of India resulted in the emergence of the country of Pakistan out of two territories: West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) and East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh). As a response to the Awami League victory in the 1970 general elections, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight on 25 March 1971, a massive military operation designed to curb the nationalist movement in East Pakistan. The armed conflict became known as the “Liberation War” and lasted until 16 December 1971.
The conflict involved widespread killings and other atrocities –forced displacement, disappearances, destruction and confiscation of property, torture and sexual violence– carried out by the Pakistan Army with the assistance of religious and political groups from East and West Pakistan. The exact number of victims of the conflict is not established. Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were killed while a Pakistan Government investigation states the figure of 26,000. The conflict also led to a major humanitarian crisis, with eight to ten millions refugees fleeing to India. Sexual violence was allegedly used as a weapon of war, with an estimated 200.000 women victims of rape.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMES TRIBUNAL ACT (ICTA)
On 20 June 1973, the ICTA was adopted to provide for the prosecution of any persons for “crimes against humanity, genocide, crimes against peace, war crimes, violation of any humanitarian rules and any other crimes under international law” committed in Bangladesh. The ICTA, using the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal Charter as a template, was to serve as a basis for a national tribunal.
However, efforts ended with the military coup of 1975. The new regime also repealed the 1972 Collaborator’s Act, which had been designed to bring to account those who had collaborated with the Pakistan Army. As a result, prosecutions of “collaborators” who did not fall under the 30 November 1973 amnesty were stopped, and all those detained and convicted were pardoned and released.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMES TRIBUNAL (ICT)
In 2008, the ICTA was resuscitated in the election manifesto of the Awami League. In 2009, the elected Awami League government adopted a resolution to initiate the establishment of a civilian court, which led to the 2009 amendment of the ICTA. In March 2010, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) was set up and its Rules of Procedure were adopted on 15 July 2010.
The ICT has generated criticism from the international community, including the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the US Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues. This criticism mainly addresses the lack of fair trial standards. The European Union has also voiced its concern with regards to the potential application of the death penalty.
LIMITATIONS TO THE TRIAL OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMES
Several legislative and executive orders granted immunity to groups involved in the 1971 Liberation War. In February 1973, shortly before the ICTA, the Bangladesh National Liberation Struggle (Indemnity) Order granted immunity to all freedom fighters for acts committed in connection with the “Liberation Struggle”. On 30 November 1973, a general amnesty was declared for all Bangladesh citizens who had collaborated with the Pakistan Army, with the exception of those accused of murder, rape, arson or genocide. Finally, the early 1974 tripartite agreement organised the return of Pakistani prisoners of wars, including those accused of committing war crimes, without charging them.
The ICTA was, however, never repealed. It provides for the prosecution of Bangladeshi nationals who were not granted immunity for international crimes committed during the Liberation War.