Prisoners of War, Trial of

Prisoners of War, Trial of refers to the trial of persons taken as prisoners during the Bangladesh war of liberation. On 16 December 1971, the armed forces of Pakistan numbering about 93,000 surrendered to the joint command of the Indian and Bangladesh forces at Ramna Racecourse (now Suhrawardy Udyan). The instrument of surrender included all Pakistani land, air and naval forces including all paramilitary and civil armed forces. A solemn assurance was given to the effect that all persons so surrendered would be treated with dignity and respect in accordance with the provisions of Geneva Conventions including a guarantee to ensure safety and well being of all Pakistani forces who surrendered and became the prisoners of war. All of these prisoners were subsequently taken under Indian custody.

Immediately after the surrender, the government of Bangladesh demanded trial of prisoners charged with crime against humanity. One hundred ninety five prisoners were identified for trial on the grounds of war crimes and mass killing. However, the simla agreement between Pakistan and India signed in July 1972 signalled a possibility of peaceful return of the war prisoners to Pakistan, although Bangladesh continued to insist on the trial of those 195 prisoners of war. Pakistan filed a formal petition against the proposed trial before the International Court of Justice. In the backdrop of these developments the official delegates of both India and Pakistan met again in Islamabad and Delhi in July-August 1973 to sign another agreement. Under this agreement all the prisoners were to be repatriated except 195 against whom there were specific charges of serious war crimes. But following the Islamic Summit at Lahore in 1974 and the recognition of Bangladesh by Pakistan, the delegates of the three countries, ie, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, met in Delhi where Bangladesh was persuaded by India to withdraw its demand for trying 195 prisoners of war in order to facilitate India-Pakistan rapprochement. [Fazlul Quader Quaderi]