U.S. to help Bangladesh conduct 40-year-old war crimes trials
DHAKA (Reuters) - The United States will help Bangladesh stage "open and transparent" trials for crimes against humanity committed during the 40-year-old Bangladesh war for independence, a visiting U.S. envoy said on Thursday.
Bangladesh last year arrested six people, including five leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the principal ally of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), charged with various war crimes.
"The U.S. government will help Bangladesh hold an open and transparent war crimes trial with the rights of defense for the accused," Stephen Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, told a news conference.
U.S. officials would advise how to ensure the right to defense, he said. They would also help investigators gather evidence.
Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, won independence with India's help in December 1971 following a nine-month war against Pakistan. Around 3 million people were killed and thousands of women raped.
Many Bangladeshis accuse Jamaat of actively collaborating with the Pakistani army.
Trying war criminals was an election pledge of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who returned to power in January 2009 after polls that ended two years of rule by an army-backed interim authority.
"Justice in Dhaka against war crimes will prevent recurrence of such offences elsewhere in the world," Rapp said, emphasizing on the need of the trials even 40 years after they were committed.
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said last week the trials would begin in a couple of months.
(Reporting by Nizam Ahmed; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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