Bangladesh set up a war crimes tribunal Thursday for long-delayed trials of people accused of murder, torture, rape and arson during its 1971 independence war.
Three High Court judges will sit in the tribunal, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told reporters, without specifying when trials would begin. The government also appointed six retired civil, police and military officials to investigate war crimes charges.
The government has already barred about 50 war crimes suspects mostly belonging to the country's main Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, from leaving the country. Jamaat-e-Islami had sided with Pakistani troops against whom Bangladesh fought the independence war.
On March 26, 1971, Bangladesh — then East Pakistan — declared its independence from West Pakistan, following years of perceived political and economic discrimination.
Bangladesh official figures say Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed an estimated 3 million people, raped about 200,000 women and forced millions more to flee their homes during a bloody nine-month guerrilla war. With help from neighbor India, Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation on Dec. 16, 1971, with the surrender of the Pakistani army in Dhaka.
An amnesty was declared after the war for collaborators who were not directly involved in heinous crimes. It did not cover those who had specific charges or evidence of crimes against them.
A Law Ministry statement said the tribunal will conduct quick trials under a 1973 act outlining prosecution and punishment for people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law.