Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami

27.04.2016 ( Last modified: 22.07.2016 )
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facts

Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami was born on 31 March 1943 in the Pabna District. Since 1971, this district was territory of the independent state of Bangladesh. He attended the University of Dhaka, from which he graduated in 1967.

As a student, he led the Islamic Chhatra Sangha, a student movement linked to Jaamat-e-Islami, an extreme right Pakistani Islamic party.

During the Bangladesh national liberation war of 1971, Nizami was opposed to the independence from Pakistan. The war is known for the high number of atrocities reportedly committed by the Pakistani Army and allied militias against the Bengali population, and especially against the Hindu minority.

During the war and the surrounding events, Nizami was allegedly the supreme commander of the militia known as Al-Badr, which is said to have committed many atrocities during the war of 1971. Nizami was said to have planned and directed attacks carried out on 24 or 25 April and 8 May 1971 by members of a militia and the Pakistani Army, during which different civilians suspected of having supported freedom fighters were killed and raped.

– On 10 May 1971: the Pakistani army and members of a militia, under the alleged supervision of Nizami, reportedly killed 450 civilians and raped about 30 to 40 women.

– On 4 June 1971, a person perceived to be a supporter of the independence of Bangladesh was taken by Pakistani forces to an army camp in Pabna town, where he was severely tortured and subsequently killed. Nizami was allegedly present during this event.

– On 30 August 1971, Nizami, in his function of president of Islami Chhatra Sangha and head of the Al-Badr Bahini, visited an army camp in Dhaka. Nizami allegedly ordered the Pakistani Army Captain to kill all the detainees before the proclamation of the general amnesty by the President. In the same month Nizami was said to have ordered the local militia to destroy the houses in the village of Sonatala of those persons allegedly involved in the Liberation War.

– On 27 November 1971, Nizami was said to have raided the village of Dhulaura together with the Pakistani forces and a local militia. A number of villagers were killed by gunshots. After the departure of the Pakistani forces, Nizami and his militia allegedly caught twenty other civilians and killed them at the bank of the Isamoti River.

– On 3 December 1971, the Pakistani Army attacked the village of Brishalikha, allegedly based on information provided by Nizami. They killed 70 Hindus and destroyed 72 houses.

– On the last days of the war, around 14 December 1971, Nizami, as president of Islami Chhatra Sangha and head of Al-Badr Bahinian, reportedly mounted an extensive and selective killing campaign against the most notable Bengali intellectuals.

After the independence of Bangladesh, between 1991 and 1996 Nizami was a member of the Bangladeshi Parliament, elected in the district of Pabna-1. In 2000 he became the new chief (also known as ‘Ameer’) of Jaamat-e-Islam, succeeding Ghulam Azam.

In the elections of 2001 Jaamat-e-Islam won 18 seats in the Bangladeshi Parliament, and took part to the formation of the new government. Nizami held the office of Minister of Agriculture from 2001 to 2003, and subsequently the office of Minister of Industries between 2003 and 2006.

In July 2010 the Prosecutor of the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal opened an investigation into Nizami’s involvement in the 1971 massacres. Nizami was arrested on 2 August 2010.

 

legal procedure

In July 2010 the Prosecutor of the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal opened an investigation into Nizami’s involvement in the 1971 massacres. Nizami was arrested on 2 August 2010.

On 23 November 2011 the Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a non-binding communication in which it ruled that Nizami’s pre-trial detention was arbitrary and requested the Bangladeshi government to remedy the situation. No measure was however taken by the government.

On 28 May 2012 the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal framed the indictment against Nizami. The indictment contained 16 charges, and included, inter alia:

– murder as a crime against humanity;

– deportation as a crime against humanity;

– imprisonment as a crime against humanity;

– torture as a crime against humanity;

– rape as a crime against humanity;

– persecution as a crime against humanity;

– conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity;

– genocide, for the murder of members of the Hindu religious group in Bangladesh with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the group itself.

The charges against Nizami related both to his individual participation in the crimes and to his responsibility as a commander of the Al-Badr militia.

Nizami pleaded not guilty on all counts.

On 29 October 2014, the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Nizami to death by hanging for four charges of crimes against humanity and to life imprisonment for four other charges. Among several other crimes, he was found guilty of the killing of hundreds of un-armed civilians and numerous intellectuals and professionals.

Nizami appealed the decision.

On 6 January 2016 the Supreme Court of Bangladesh partially dismissed Nizami’s appeal. The Court upheld the death sentence for five charges, and acquitted him for the three other charges.

Nizami filed a petition asking for a review of his case by the Supreme Court. However, on 5 May 2016 the Supreme Court of Bangladesh rejected Nizami’s petition and he was consequently executed on 11 May 2016.

context

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.