International conference on Bangladesh seeks long-awaited UN recognition of 1971 genocide

The conference, presided over by Member of the European Parliament,  Mel Fulvio Martusciello, brought together 65 participants, including speakers from various fields, all united in their commitment to seeking recognition for the victims of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.

Kamal Uddin Mazumder Jul 07, 2023
Genocide of Bangladesh 1971 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Global Human Rights Defense, a leading human rights organization, hosted a conference titled "The Forgotten Genocide of Bangladesh 1971" at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on July 3. There speakers urged the international community to actively campaign for the recognition of atrocities conducted by the Pakistani Army during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and recognize them as genocide. They also sought a public apology and trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

The conference, presided over by Member of the European Parliament,  Mel Fulvio Martusciello, brought together 65 participants, including speakers from various fields, all united in their commitment to seeking recognition for the victims of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. The event featured prominent speakers, including Sradhanand Sital, Chairman of Global Human Rights Defense; Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers; Andy Vermaut, President of Postversa; Giuliana Franciosa; Isabella Adinoilfi MEP; Mahbub Hasan Saleh, Bangladesh's Ambassador in Belgium; and Paul Manik, a survivor who managed to escape the genocide in 1971.

The mood of the meeting was that the true nature of the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators can no longer be ignored.  The event included a partial screening of Global Human Rights Defense's documentary film titled "Bangladesh: What Happened?" This comprehensive account of the genocide in 1971 by the Pakistani Army served to further illustrate the horror of the events 52 years ago. 

Earlier, the International Association of Genocide Experts (IAGS) recognized the genocide carried out by Pakistani forces and their allies in Bangladesh in 1971. On December 31, 2021, on the eve of the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence, the US-based Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention recognized the atrocities of the Pakistani army as 'genocide'. On February 20, 2022, another international organization, Genocide Watch, urged the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution recognizing the atrocities of 1971 as genocide.

Pakistan Army atrocities highlighted

On March 24 last year, as a result of the efforts of the Liberation War Museum, the United States-based organization the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) recognized the atrocities committed in Bangladesh in 1971 as genocide. From March 29 to 31 of this year, a photo exhibition of the Liberation War was held at the United Nations headquarters on the initiative of the Bangladesh government.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which is known as the Genocide Convention, was adopted at the United Nations General Session in Paris on December 9, 1948, at the end of the Second World War. Genocide is recognized as an international crime. Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as crimes committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the ethnic,  tribal, or religious identity of a population. If we consider the atrocities committed in Bangladesh in 1971, we will see that the torturous activities—murder, physical and mental injuries, looting of property, rape—all were committed by the Pakistan Army and their allies with the above intent. 

There is an urgent responsibility for the United Nations and its member states to play an effective role in stopping genocide, even by force if necessary. Not only that, but the punishment of those responsible for genocide also became the responsibility of the United Nations. Genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia-Herzegovina committed after the independence of Bangladesh has been recognized by the United Nations.

When the Serbs began genocide in Bosnia, European human rights groups and states quickly reacted. They quickly recognized it and forced the UN to stop it by force. The tribunal later confirmed the punishment of the Bosnian generals. The same is true of Cambodia and Rwanda. Those responsible for genocide are punished by international initiatives. Some of the trials are still ongoing.

Bangladesh's progress recognised

After the present government in Bangladesh came to power with an absolute majority in the 2008 elections, the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal and the prosecution of the domestic collaborators of the Pakistan Army began as promised by the ruling Awami League in its election manifesto.

Genocide committed with the intention of exterminating a population is essentially a crime against the entire human race Because every community is part of a larger human community. So, international recognition of Genocide ’71 is essential in ensuring the dignity of humanity.

Another international seminar on cooperation between the European Union and Bangladesh and the economic opportunities of Bangladesh was held in Brussels. In this seminar organized by Study Circle London and the European Institute of Asian Studies, 'Bangladesh: Inexorable Development Journey' was discussed. Eminent speakers said that Bangladesh's progress in spite of numerous obstacles can be an example for the developing countries of the world. Under PM Hasina's leadership, Bangladesh has kept the wheels of the economy moving with rapidly improving socio-economic indicators. 

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once described Bangladesh as a "basket case". This "basket case" has today become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Speakers said that under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina for a decade, the world has witnessed unprecedented progress of Bangladesh's economy. In addition to economic growth, the country has made significant progress in achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals. Bangladesh has even surpassed its neighbor India in achieving the targets of most of the social indicators under the MDGs.

(The author is a security and strategic affairs analyst in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Views are personal. He can be reached at

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