India urged to protect Bangladesh war crimes witness

New York, May 16, (IANS) Authorities in India and Bangladesh should take all necessary steps to protect Shukhoranjan Bali, a long-missing witness in the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Bangladesh, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

Bali, a Bangladeshi, claims he was abducted by the Bangladeshi police from the entrance to the ICT courthouse, detained, then forced by security forces across the border into India.

In India, he claims he was detained and tortured by the Border Security Force (BSF) before being held in Kolkata’s Dum Dum jail.

“The apparent abduction of a witness in a trial at the ICT is a cause for serious concern about the conduct of the prosecution, judges and government,” said Brad Adams at Human Rights Watch.

Bali was due to appear to give evidence as a defence witness before the ICT, a court expressly set up to try people suspected of war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.

He had previously been listed as a prosecution witness.

Bali claims that on Nov 5, 2012, he was abducted by people in plainclothes at the gates of the ICT, put into a police van and then taken away to a police office.

Witnesses present at the courthouse claimed to have seen the abduction.

Complaints to the ICT led to the judges asking for the prosecution, rather than an independent body, to investigate the allegation.

The prosecution returned to the court and denied the allegations entirely, saying there had been no abduction.

The judges ordered no further investigation into Bali’s disappearance. No information about his whereabouts was made public and the government ignored calls to set up an investigation.

The attorney general, testifying on a habeas corpus petition filed on Bali’s behalf, stated that the abduction claim had been made to bring the court into disrepute.

Bali had been expected to counter prosecution allegations about the involvement of Delwar Hossain Sayedee in the 1971 murder of Bali’s brother.

Saydeee has since been sentenced to hang, in part for the murder of Bali’s brother.

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