Part I:  Introduction
Part II: Outline of Events in East Pakistan
           1-25 March, 1971
           25-March-18 December, 1971
Part III: Legal Position under Pakistan Law
Part IV: Legal Position under International Penal Law
Part V: Right of Self-determination in International Law
Part VI: The Role of the United Nations
Part VII: The Role of India
Summary of Conclusions



In September 1971 an international conference of jurists convened in Aspen, Colorado, by the ICJ and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies called upon the International Commission of Jurists to set up a Commission of Enquiry into the events in East Pakistan. A Commission of three prominent international lawyers was accordingly appointed in November with the following terms of reference:

'To enquire into the reported violations of human rights and the rule of law in East Pakistan since March 1, 1971, and, insofar as they are shown to be well-founded, to enquire into their nature, extent and causes and to report, with recommendations.'

The Indian Government and the provisional Government of Bangladesh agreed to cooperate fully with the Commission, but unfortunately the former Pakistan Government refused their cooperation, contending that the subject of the enquiry was a purely internal matter.

The Commission were due to leave for India in December to take evidence there, when open hostilities broke out between India and Pakistan. The Indian Government asked that the visit of the Commission should be postponed, but as the members of the Commission were not available at a later date, the Commission of Enquiry had to be cancelled.

However, as a great deal of valuable documentary evidence had been collected, together with some oral evidence, it was decided that the Secretariat of the ICJ should prepare this Staff Study covering the same ground as the proposed Commission of Enquiry .The scope of the Study was extended to consider the application of the right of self-determination of peoples, the role of the United Nations and the role of India.

This Staff Study contains a factual account of the events which occurred in East Pakistan from March to December 1971, together with a discussion of some of the legal issues involved. The factual account is based partly upon published books, partly upon contemporary newspaper accounts, partly upon sworn depositions of refugees in India, and partly upon oral and written statements of evidence given to the International Commission of Jurists between October 1971 and March 1972. Nearly all these statements have been made by European and American nationals who were in East Pakistan at the time.

The discussion of the legal issues deals with some highly controversial subjects, but whenever we have formed a view on these issues, we have thought it better to state our view clearly without equivocation. In doing so, we wish to stress that this is a Staff Study for which the Secretariat is alone responsible. It does not commit the individual Members of the International Commission of Jurists.

We have sought to make this Study as objective as possible but recognise that we have suffered from the disadvantage that the former Pakistan Government refused to cooperate in helping us to obtain evidence from their side. Nor have we had an opportunity to obtain the comments of President Bhutto upon our text, and in particular upon our references to him.

We wish to express our gratitude to all those who have helped us in the preparation of this Study. We wish to acknowledge in particular the assistance we have received from the following books: The Pakistan Crisis, by David Loshak, Heinemann, London, 1971; The Great Tragedy, by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan People's Party, 1971; The East Pakistan Tragedy, by L. F. Rushbrook Williams, Tom Stacey, London, 1971; The Rape of Bangladesh, by Anthony Mascarenhas, Vikas Publications, Delhi, 1971; the White Paper on the Crisis in East Pakistan, Government of Pakistan, 1971; Bangla Desh Documents, Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, 1971; and from articles and reports by journalists, in particular the following: Peter Hazelhurst, The Times, London; Martin Woollacott and Martin Adeney, The Guardian, London; Simon Dring and Clare Hollingsworth, The Daily Telegraph, London; Sydney H. Schanberg and Malcolm W. Browne, The New York Times and International Herald Tribune; Henry S. Hayward, Christian Science Monitor.


International Commission of Jurists

Geneva, June 1972

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