To Amnesty International from Gita Sahgal, other posts on war crimes & Shahbagh

Thursday night (around 9pm BST), Gita Sahgal, producer of War Crimes Files documentary on 1971 Liberation War and three collaborators now living in the UKposted on Facebook: “Question from Bangladesh regarding my opposition to death penalty. I want to make clear that I oppose the death penalty under all circumstances whether it is a judicial punishment or the threat of extra-judicial killing such as the Jamaat e Islami are threatening against ‘atheist bloggers’ for blasphemy.”

  • 33 people like this.
  • Ekhlas Ahmad I second your stand.
  • Sunahwar Ali All those War Criminals are the Virus to the our Society & to the Nation and now we do need Paki lovers FREE Bangladesh and all those War Criminals must be HANG to the death and others Jaamat & some BNP those WHO are the PAKI lovers and they must go to the Pakistan, as they don’t love our mother land BUT they do love Pakistan instead !!!!!
  • Ekhlas Ahmad Sunahwar Ali, we, Indian, too have gone through the similar set of atrocities; you are well aware of that. But, we follow what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did with his tormentors on the day of Mecca’ victory: Amnesty
  • James Peris Bangladesh is staying behind just because of Jamati ideology nothing else. Look at Pakistan ! Ir became a failed state just because of Jamati elements.
  • David Bergman sunahwar Ali Are you suggesting that anyone who does not support hanging those convicted of 1971 crimes are ‘Paki lovers’ are you rather quaintly put it – particularly when the process of the trials have been seriously compromised.

Full version of the DOCU-FILM, directed by David Bergman, is also available.

Sahgal, currently the executive director of the Centre for Secular Space, is now working towards establishing secularism as a human rights issue in Bangladesh communities in the UK.

Her another post, a letter to a former colleague of Amnesty International: I write this with a heavy heart as I know that you are one of the few at Amnesty International, fully conscious of the dangers of fundamentalism and no friend of the pro-jihadi faction. I know you have done much to raise awareness of the human rights issues which are raised whenever fundamentalists press their agenda. You have fought against declaring Ahmaddiyas as ‘non-Muslim’ and explained to colleagues the importance of moving fast to prevent bad legislation being put in place. Complaining atrocities have happened is simply not good enough. They should be prevented in the first place.

I am sure that it is in that spirit that you have commented on the war crimes tribunal and on Amnesty International’s opposition to the death penalty. I too stand in opposition to the death penalty, but I support the spirit of the Shahbagh movement in its desire to seek justice and accountability.

Activists and human rights advocates have felt abandoned by the Western human rights organisations, which have produced not a single report on the crimes committed in 1971 in Bangladesh nor the impunity enjoyed by the Jamaat e Islami in the UK. As we demonstrate in front of Amnesty today, I hope that you will come out and meet us. Neither the Bangladeshi activists nor the Centre for Secular Space are enemies of human rights. Indeed, we are all engaged in one of the greatest human rights struggles of our times.

It is not too late to remedy Amnesty International’s wrongs, most of which lie elsewhere in the organisation. I hope you will share this with Salil Shetty, Widney Brown, Kate Allen and other relevant bosses.

1) Amnesty International UK should apologise for its part in legitimising the Jamaat e Islami by giving Abdul Bari a platform at an AGM, in spite of very strong advice not to treat as ‘Muslim leaders’ fundamentalists belonging to a party implicated in war crimes .
2) Amnesty International should apologise publicly and clearly for embracing ‘defensive jihad’ an ideology which was used in Bangladesh to rape and kill.
3) Amnesty International should use its own genocide guidelines to pronounce on the nature and severity of the crimes committed. We believe that these crimes amount to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Where does Amnesty International stand?
4) Amnesty International could assert its strong commitment to ending impunity and announce an investigation into the threat to human rights constituted by global religious fundamentalist organisations such as the Jamaat e Islami.

Every single one of these demands is within Amnesty International’s policies. All it needs to implement them is integrity and political will.

With very best wishes


After a couple of hours, David commentedDavid Bergman Amnesty International’s last statement I thought got the balance quite right – it supported the processes toward removing impunity for crimes committed in 1971 but at the same time raised issues about the fairness of the process. Those who you are likely to be with at the protest, however are not concerned about the process, and would be happy for these men to be strung up however abusive the process may be. In fact you are lucky that AI have hardly been following the trial – so they do not understand the shenanigans that have been going on, otherwise they would I am sure put a much harsher criticism in their press releases.

Well!!! Now Sahgal shares a status of David on SHAHBAGH’s demanding DEATH PENALTY on a subjudice matter:

From my friend David Bergman, without whom The War Crimes File would not be made. My view is that demands on the government should include more resources to the prosecution and the Bench, which are open and transparent.
There is one interesting and ironic positive about Shahbag (amongst many positives, I hasten to add, of course!) which has so far not been mentioned. For people like me who are writing a lot about the tribunal, surely there is nothing more in ‘in contempt of court’ that we can say which is more in contempt than the Shahbag demands themselves! Demanding hanging for people not yet convicted, kind of beats anything I could ever think about saying about the tribunal I think. It is difficult to see now how the tribunal can really use its contempt powers any more in the future when so much has been shouted from the stage and published in papers that would normally be deemed highly contemptuous of the process. (Of course, the tribunal will no doubt prove me wrong, on that). Unfortunately, any liberation one might feel from this is countered by the fact that the level of tolerance for independent assessment of the tribunal and for consideration of arguments about fairness and due process is wafer thin. Since the tribunal was established, it has of course always been thin – and even someone like me with a history of making the Channel 4 War Crimes File many years ago now, found myself way before Shahbagh of being described as a ‘pro-Jamaati’ or worse simply for writing about what would normally be seen as quite legitimate issues on matters of due process, rights and fairness. The 1971 war, the issue of accountability the end of impunity is very close to peoples hearts in Bangladesh for very obvious reasons, but it is unfortunate that the Shahbag process has made discussion about the tribunal process itself almost impossible.

Gita Sahgal, producer of the film, was profiled by The Daily Star on April 20, 2012 issue and there are many things about the film and Bergman. Read here.

Sahgal, a former Amnesty International unit chief, says she was 14 when the war took place, and through newspapers and discussions she was deeply affected, especially by an article on genocide, rape and women found locked up in Pakistani army camps violated. In 2004, Sahgal was the “first to point out how rape and sexual abuse are used as a deliberate military strategy”.

Bergman and Sahgal met in mid ‘80s while working on Bhopal disaster in India.

They started research on the rumours they had heard and later concentrated on three persons – Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, who was the Al-Badr commander, and Abu Sayeed and Lutfor Rahman, peace committee members from Sylhet district.

It was tough filming in Bangladesh during the BNP government but better in the UK since the Labour Party assisted the team. The film won the Royal Television Society Award and was well regarded as investigative journalism. There were some treats too. Yet “War Crimes File” is widely distributed in Bangladesh and screened regularly.

She was also critical of Jamaat over its efforts to impede the trials by creating pressure through appointed lobbyists, questioning its standard… “Basically, the defence is creating a kind of smokes screen, saying we are going to have trial but then creating impossible conditions for the trial to be held.”


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