top of page

genocide 1971

Declaration in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Bangladesh Genocide


Pakistan's crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War included Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes


  • Prior to the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, East Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh, was dominated by West Pakistan, following the British colonial partition of 1947.

  • During this second neo-colonial rule, discriminatory policies against the people of East Pakistan, both Hindus and Muslims, were established by the West Pakistan military junta. They included imposition of Urdu as the only official language of Pakistan from 1948 - 1956, violent persecution of the civilian Bengali population, and repression of dissidents and social movements that defended Bengali identity and culture.

  • Testimonies by the survivors of Pakistani military rule provide thousands of accounts of widespread persecution from 1947 through 1971 committed by Pakistan against the Bengali people as an ethnic, national, and religious group.

  • These crimes were planned and led by Pakistani General Yahya Khan. He imposed martial law in 1969, dissolved Pakistan's parliament, and abrogated Pakistan's constitution.  

  • Following the East Pakistan Awami League's victory in the 1970 all Pakistan parliamentary elections, the West Pakistani military junta under General Yahya Khan organized to prevent the Awami League from forming a Pakistani government.

  • Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made an historic speech on 7 March 1971 declaring Bangladesh Independence at midnight on 26 March 1971. 

  • Instead of handing over power to the elected civilian political leaders of Bangladesh, the Pakistani Military Forces and local collaborators launched ‘Operation Searchlight’ against the Bengali population on the night of 25 March 1971 and pursued a brutal annihilation campaign throughout Bangladesh until 16 December 1971. 

  • The United States supported Pakistan in the Bangladesh Liberation War. President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger directed the United States to secretly encourage shipment of arms from Iran, Turkey, and Jordan to Pakistan, reimbursing those countries despite US diplomatic and Congressional objections. 

  • Throughout the nine months of their anti-independence occupation of East Pakistan, the Pakistani Military Forces persecuted, tortured, and murdered representatives of Bengali culture and identity, including poets, musicians, professors, journalists, physicians, scientists, writers, and film makers.

  • During their occupation of East Pakistan from 25 March 1971 to 16 December 1971, attacks by Pakistani Military Forces and their allies forced approximately ten million Bengalis to flee to neighboring India. This forced exodus constituted the crime against humanity of deportation and forcible transfer of a substantial part of East Pakistan's population. 

  • Pakistani policies were intentionally planned and organized in “clearance operations” to change the demographic composition of East Pakistan, through the brutal forced displacement and mass murder of a substantial part of East Pakistan's Bengali national and ethnic population. 

  • The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) held in its 1972 Report that attacks by Pakistani Military Forces included “indiscriminate killing of civilians, including women and children; the attempt to exterminate or drive out of the country a large part of the Hindu population of approximately 10 million people; the arrest, torture and killing without trial of suspects; the raping of women; the destruction of villages and towns; and the looting of property. The scale of these crimes was massive....” 

  • The International Commission of Jurists report concluded “[i]n addition to criminal offences under domestic law, there is a strong prima facie case that criminal offences were committed in international law, namely war crimes and crimes against humanity under the law relating to armed conflict, breaches of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention.” 

  • These crimes by the Pakistani Military Forces constituted the crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape, sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearance of persons, and other inhumane acts.

  • Strong evidence supports the conclusion that the crimes committed against the Bengalis of East Pakistan during 1971 were widespread and systematic and carried out by the Pakistani Army, other militia forces (Razakars, Al Badr, Al Shams etc.), and pan-Islamic political forces (including Jamat e Islam, Nezam e Islam and the Muslim League). 

  • The crimes of the Pakistani Military Forces in Bangladesh in 1971 constituted war crimes under the laws of war, including: willful killing; torture; inhuman treatment; willfully causing great suffering; destruction and appropriation of property; compelling service in hostile forces; denying a fair trial; unlawful deportation and transfer; attacking civilians; attacking civilian objects; attacking personnel or objects in humanitarian assistance; excessive incidental death, injury, or damage; killing or wounding a person hors de combat; attacking protected objects; mutilation; treacherously killing or wounding; destroying or seizing property; depriving nationals of the hostile power of rights; compelling participation in military operations; pillaging; outrages upon personal dignity; rape; sexual violence; starvation as a method of warfare; murder; cruel treatment; and sentencing or execution without due process. 

  • Conclusive research by internationally recognized genocide experts indicates that the nature, scale and organization of the Pakistani Military operations demonstrates planning and intentional design by the Pakistani junta leadership and military command to destroy a substantial part of the Bengali ethnic and national group and a substantial part of the Bengali Hindu religious group.

  • These crimes included all the processes of genocide: Classification into West Pakistanis vs. East Pakistanis (Bengalis); Symbolization on ID cards and in government records, existing different dress, language, and culture; Discrimination against Bengalis in Pakistan government and military leadership; Dehumanization in ethnic slurs against Bengalis, disparagement of Bengali Islam as "false Islam corrupted by Hinduism" and racism due to skin color; Organization in the West Pakistani dominated military; Polarization by language (Urdu vs. Bengali) and geography; Preparation in planning by Yahya Khan and the Pakistani Military Forces of "Operation Searchlight"; Persecution by murders, rapes, torture, destruction of property, and deportation; Extermination by mass murder of from 300,000 to 3 million Bengalis; and Denial by Pakistan, the US, the UK, and the UN during the genocide and to the present.

  • This intentional Pakistani state planning of systematic, coordinated, simultaneous massacres by Pakistani Military Forces indicates the level of state intent required to prove the crime of Genocide. 


Therefore, Genocide Watch:

  • Recognizes the crimes committed by the Military Forces of Pakistan against the Bengali population in Bangladesh in 1971 as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

  • Calls upon the U.N. General Assembly to adopt a resolution recognizing the 1971 Genocide in Bangladesh.

  • Urges the member states of the United Nations, especially the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, to recognize the crimes committed by Pakistani Military Forces in Bangladesh in 1971 as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. 

  • Urges member states of the United Nations to take necessary measures to recognize these crimes in appropriate for a, and to charge surviving leaders of this genocide in national courts with universal jurisdiction.

  • Requests proper reparations for these crimes from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the People's Republic of Bangladesh.


       Adopted as an official declaration of Genocide Watch in this 50th anniversary commemoration year of the Bangladesh Genocide.

GH Stanton

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton

Founding President

Genocide Watch



GENOCIDE WATCH is the founder and coordinator of the Alliance Against Genocide

Phone: 1-202-643-1405 E-mail:   Website:  Tax exempt EIN: 26-1672589

Statement on the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971.PNG

Released 31 December 2021

On the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation War and the birth of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the Lemkin Institute issues a formal statement for the recognition of the genocide committed towards the Bengali nation during the war for independence.

After the British colonial partition of 1947, East Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh, remained under the rule of West Pakistan. The partition was based on religious identity -- India became majority Hindu and Pakistan majority Muslim. Although the eastern part of Bengal was given to Pakistan because the majority of its people were Muslim, the West Pakistan government, the center of political, military and administrative power in postcolonial Pakistan, perceived Bengalis as being influenced by Hindus, and, therefore, not “true Muslims.”

Due to this perception of Bengalis as a different ethnic, religious, and national group, West Pakistan established discriminatory policies with the intent to destroy their cultural and national identity and impose on them a singular West Pakistan identity. Amongst those policies were the prohibition against speaking Bangla, the imposition of Urdu as an official language, and the violent persecution and repression of a linguistic and cultural opposition that had started right after the partition. During this period of time, many social movements expressing Bengali cultural and national identity were born, such as the “Language Movement” and the “Six-Points Movement,” an antecedent to the call for independence.

The genocidal policies of the postcolonial era became expressed in extreme and mass physical violence throughout the entire process of the Liberation War, from its very beginning, when West Pakistan implemented “Operation Searchlight,” to the end of the war, when West Pakistan, facing defeat, proceeded to kill thousands of Bengali intellectuals. The atrocities committed by the Pakistani army and the local collaborators - such as razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams - included a systematic policy of sexual violence against Bengalis, the majority of them Bengali Hindu women and girls, involving vicious gang rapes, life force atrocities, sexual slavery, sexual torture, and forced maternity.
The Pakistani Army and local collaborators targeted hundreds of intellectuals from the very beginning of the war through to the infamous events of 14 December 1971, now known as “Martyred Intellectuals Day” in the memory of those who were abducted, killed and buried in mass graves. As in other contexts of emergent nationalist movements, Bengali intellectuals were the icons of cultural resistance against oppression: they initiated protest movements against the racist military regime of Pakistan and articulated demands based in the right to self-determination of the Bengali national group. Amongst those intellectuals who were killed were journalists, philosophers, poets, musicians, writers, professors, film-makers, lawyers, doctors and many other individuals who represented the different aspects of the Bengali identity.
The Lemkin Institute also wishes to highlight the efforts carried out by Bangladesh to bring justice to the victims and accountability for perpetrators by establishing the International Crimes Tribunals of Bangladesh in order to try the Bengali nationals that collaborated with the Pakistani government in perpetrating genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Judicial accountability must be at the core of any transitional justice and preventative efforts, and the international community should give support to national processes.
Given the lack of a broad international recognition of this crime, the Lemkin Institute calls upon the international community, including the United Nations, to urgently recognize the Bengali genocide as a way to pay tribute to the victims and to hold perpetrators accountable. The Lemkin Institute also calls upon the international community to provide help and support to Bangladesh in its justice efforts, as well as to pressure Pakistan to work with Bangladesh in its search for truth and justice.

Statement on the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971

Recognition of 1971 Genocide in Bangladesh

Another US group recognises 1971 genocide in Bangladesh, asks UN to do the same


bottom of page