On the other hand, Prime Minister Hasina has harassed Jamaat-e-Islami with strong-arm tactics that undermine the rule of law, according to critics, as a result of which Jamaat has vowed to retaliate, possibly with violence. Fears already abound that the tribunal could now ignite a social explosion.
“The Jamaat leaders will make every effort to stop this trial. Will it be a political resistance? Will it be a hidden, violent resistance through terrorism? All possibilities should be taken into account, and we should be prepared accordingly,” says retired Bangladeshi Maj. Gen. Muhammed Abdur Rashid, an independent political analyst in Dhaka.
Starting a war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has not been easy. Past efforts have stalled or been swept aside for 40 years, given that a trial threatens to implicate many of those currently or recently in power. But Hasina won a landslide victory in 2009 on campaign promises that she would do just that. The stakes are personal for her Awami League party: the core of Bengali nationalists, they were one of the main targets of the brutality in 1971.
Many questions still hover over Hasina’s tribunal, including the extent of reliable evidence, the list of witnesses, and the number of accused. Last week, the government banned about 40 suspects from leaving the country, indicating that the proceedings would begin soon.
But one thing seems certain, observers agree: Jamaat-e-Islami’s leadership will come under scrutiny during the trial.