Sunday, August 10, 2014

Warsi’s bold step against Gaza atrocities: Could have been as vocal about BD war criminals

SALEEM SAMAD

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi resigned from the British government on Wednesday in a challenge to Prime Minister David Cameron over Britain’s “morally indefensible” approach to the Conflict in Gaza.

She must have drawn praise for this bold decision from all around the world who have condemned Israeli barbarity in the small Gaza Strip in Palestine.

But people in Bangladesh were bemused by an official statement she had as the first British Muslim Cabinet minister, shedding crocodile tears for indicted Bangladesh war criminals and thus blamed the independence of judiciary.

She was all in “tears” for fugitive war criminal Abul Kalam Azad who had been convicted and sentenced to death by the International War Crimes Tribunal (ICT) for crimes he committed against humanity during Bangladesh’s 1971 War or Independence from Pakistan.

Azad is reportedly living in exile in Pakistan trying to escape the gallows.

Regarding her resignation, the baroness Warsi tweeted: “If I have a view on the economy I’m a Tory..... but on foreign policy it’s because I’m Muslim!”

Earlier in January 2013, the British Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi commented on the first judgement reached by the Bangladesh ICT and the death penalty handed down to fugitive Abul Kalam Azad.

Warsi, a daughter of Pakistani immigrants, stated: “The British Government notes the verdict by the International Crimes Tribunal in the case of Abul Kalam Azad. The British Government supports the efforts of Bangladesh to bring to justice those responsible for committing atrocities during the 1971 War, although we remain strongly opposed to the application of the death penalty in all circumstances.

“The British Government is aware of concerns expressed by some human rights NGOs and legal professionals about proceedings at the International Crimes Tribunal. We hope that the International Crimes Tribunal addresses such concerns promptly and thoroughly to ensure the continued integrity, independence and reputation of the legal process in Bangladesh.”

British Foreign Minister met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a day after “Butcher of Mirpur” Kader Mollah was hanged on 12 December last year, and stressed UK’s opposition to the death penalty.

Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali during bilateral talks with his British counterpart said that Bangladesh has taken a “bold step” to break the cycle of impunity and bring the perpetrators of sexual violence and crimes against humanity during 1971 war of independence to justice.

The Telegraph, an independent British newspaper, writes: The government came under intense international pressure to halt the execution amid warnings from Western leaders that it will lead to more violence and sabotage talks to persuade Bangladesh’s opposition parties to contest next month’s (January 2014) general election.

Shahriar Kabir, a social justice activist, dubbed Warsi’s statement “outrageous” and “interference” into Bangladesh justice to bring the war crimes suspect on the docks.

As the first Muslim Cabinet minister Warsi adopted some brave stances on a number of controversial issues – such as proposals to ban veils – and had spoken out about wider Islamophobia. Neither stance saved her from abuse and threats of violence from extremist elements in the Muslim community.

To restore her cloudy image among the Muslim community in Britain, it could be a political stunt, an anonymous tweet remarked.

It has been an open secret in Westminster that Warsi has been angered since her demotion from Tory party chair, writes Independent newspaper published from London.

The British officials appeared critical of Lady Warsi's judgment, saying: "This is a disappointing and frankly unnecessary decision. The British Government is working with others in the world to bring peace to Gaza and we do now have a tentative ceasefire which we all hope will hold."

Meanwhile Baroness Anelay, the government's Chief Whip in the House of Lords is to replaced Baroness Warsi as a Foreign Office minister.

Saleem Samad is an Ashoka Fellow (USA), a media rights activists and is a journalist for the Daily Observer, published from Bangladesh