See More on Facebook

Opinion

From a high moral ground to a high legal perch

That Bangladesh offered a safe haven to close to a million Rohingya refugees fleeing wholesale persecution from Myanmar put Dhaka on a high moral pedestal.


Written by

Updated: June 1, 2018

Bangladesh’s humanitarian position got her accolades, even though moral and material support fell short of exerting any effective pressure on Myanmar to take back their abandoned nationals.

All that was, in fact, soured by a certain resigned attitude of the regional/international players that the refugees are there in Bangladesh for the long haul. Countries with levers to press on Myanmar to behave in a civilised, responsible manner chose not to, pampering the junta to a point of being a perpetual regional bully boy!

It is time for the international legal system to end the impunity culture of the recalcitrant Burmese regime. For this to happen, the Rome Statute, the bed-rock of the International Criminal Court (ICC), is going to be invoked at long last.

Presumably, it has the stamp of the use of motu proprio power by the ICC to investigate the crimes in question. The ICC has taken up the matter of its own volition realising its gravity—there was no UNSC referral nor any move that we know of from the Bangladesh side with the ICC.

Needless to say, the ICC initiative presents Bangladesh, a party to the Rome Statute, with an opportunity to hold Myanmar to account through international legal means.

With that hopefully in prospect, Bangladesh will be poised to move from the high moral ground to the high legal ground.

The preamble to the Rome Statute affirmed that “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished” and there should be determination “to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators and thus to contribute to prevention of such crimes.”

The procedure followed in a bid to invoke the Rome Statute which repudiates “deportation or forcible transfer of population” as crime against humanity is as meticulous as it is fair. As a first step, the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court to rule on whether it has jurisdiction over the matter. Then, the ICC pre-trial chamber, on May 7, invited Bangladesh to submit written observations by June 11 on whether the court can exercise jurisdiction over forced deportation of Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

Usually one would have expected—since Myanmar triggered a wholesale exodus—she would be the first to be approached by the court to elicit her opinion on its culpability. But this was not to be because Myanmar is not a state party to the Rome Statute. All the more reason though to subject Myanmar to an ICC investigation. This brings to the fore the compelling necessity for the ICC to gather all information on atrocities before bringing them up to the offending party to establish its guilt. Bangladesh being a repository of evidence deserves to be the first port of call for the ICC as procedural requirement.

Barrister Manzoor Hasan in these columns on Tuesday put the matter of territorial jurisdiction succinctly: “According to the Rome Statute, territorial jurisdiction is not limited to the place where the coercive acts took place, Myanmar in this case, but to all states involved in the deportation across the international border, concluding at the receiving state, Bangladesh in this case.”

There are three valid reasons for Bangladesh to respond to the pre-trial chamber’s letter seeking her opinion on the ICC proposing exercise of jurisdiction over deportation of Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh: First, as the unfortunate receptacle of the fall-out of Myanmar’s despicable waves of ethnic cleansing; and secondly, as a signatory to the Rome Statute.

Lastly, our own history prods us to demand justice; we suffered from war crimes and brought those responsible to justice, a legacy worth replicating as template to combat the sinister side to human affairs.

Even the states within the ICC which are not party to the Rome Statute—USA, China and Russia—can play a major role in ICC investigations. “They can ensure the ICC to act or prevent countries from cooperation with it.” Again, the ball rolls into the court of super-powers to act in favour of the aggrieved party.

The UNSC used the ICC as a diplomatic instrument to deal with the crisis in Sudan. Three out of five permanent members of the UNSC are not party to the Rome Statute, including the USA. But Washington has been making the right noises for Bangladesh on Rohingya crisis in so many ways. Would the US and India help Bangladesh come out of the repatriation tunnel closed on the receiving side?

The overarching signal we need to put across is a carefully calibrated response in particular to the humanitarian part of the challenge. We need to refrain from conveying a sense of semi-permanence, let alone permanence in our approach to the Rohingya rehabilitation issues. As it is, going by Myanmar’s present indication of an intake of 300 refugees per day, the repatriation process will take up to eight years. But not even a stuttering start has been made yet! Indeed, are we looking for a messiah in the international community not to allow us to be condemned to a long haul?

– Shah Husain Imam is adjunct faculty at East West University, a commentator on current affairs and former Associate Editor, The Daily Star.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Daily Star
About the Author: The Daily Star is a leading English-language daily newspaper in Bangladesh.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Opinion

Coming challenges call for stronger Korea-ASEAN ties

President Moon Jae-in contributed this article to The Korea Herald and Asia News Network member newspapers on the occasion of the 2019 ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit.  Next week, November 25-27, the 2019 ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the 1st Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit will be held in Korea. In particular, since my hometown Busan will play host to the events, I am very much looking forward to them – as if I have invited valued guests to my home. I send early greetings in a warm welcome to the heads of state and government as well as to the Secretary-General of ASEAN. The Republic of Korea was ASEAN’s first dialogue partner to establish an ASEAN Culture House. Koreans love ASEAN so much that the National ASEAN Recreation Forest was created complete with cabins modeled after the various traditional housing styles of the 10 ASEAN member states. After I took offic


By Asia News Network
November 18, 2019

Opinion

Let Kashmir breathe

It is the 100 day anniversary of India’s moves in Kashmir. IT is a grim milestone. Tuesday marked the 100th day of the siege of India-held Kashmir, after New Delhi clamped down on the region and did away with its special status guaranteed by the Indian constitution. Read: Occupied Kashmir marks 100 days of annexation Since then, life has become a nightmare for the Kashmiris, as they have been living under constant lockdown, their routines disrupted by the heavy hand of the Indian establishment. The matter was raised during a Senate session in Islamabad on Tuesday, with lawmakers questioning the UN’s relative silence where the suffering of Kashmiris is concerned. Former Senate chairman Farooq Naek urged the government to approach the International Court of Justice over the matter, while


By Dawn
November 15, 2019

Opinion

Ayodhya verdict is silent on why Muslims must prove exclusive possession of site

The Indian court has deprived Muslims of the disputed plot because they couldn’t show exclusive possession before 1857. On page 215 of the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid verdict, delivered by a five-judge bench on Saturday, the Supreme Court makes a crucial statement of logic: “It is true that in matters of faith and belief, the absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence.” But in its final findings, the court contradicted this same logic. The crux of the judgment that India has awaited since 1949 is that Muslims failed to show unimpeded possession of the disputed site in Ayodhya between 1528, when the mosque was supposedly built by Mughal emperor Babur, and 1857, when, after a clash between Muslims and Hindus, a railing was erected between the inner and outer courtyards at the disputed site. The inner courtyard is where the mosque demolished by Hindutva mobs in 1992 stood. The outer courtyard has se


By Dawn
November 12, 2019

Opinion

HK must hold the line, uphold democracy in elections

An editorial in China’s State Run Media. “Deliberate violence”, said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “is more to be quenched than a fire.” Although Hong Kong elections have traditionally been relatively peaceful affairs, this has now changed. After the anti-extradition protests morphed into urban guerrilla warfare, every institution is now at risk. A culture of violence has now taken hold, buttressed by a willingness to use crude intimidation of others, whether in politics, the universities, or on the streets. The latest victim of this phenomenon is legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu. Out campaigning for a District Council seat in Tuen Mun, he was stabbed in the chest by a stranger. The crime was obviously pre-meditated, and the suspected offender will hopefully be charged with attempted murder. Shortly before the attack, Ho’s local office had been hit by fire bom


By China Daily
November 11, 2019

Opinion

Poverty alleviation core of development economics

This editorial appeared in Chinese State Media. After Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer were awarded the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science for their outstanding contributions to “experimental research” into the “daunting issue” of global poverty, many have questioned the Nobel Committee’s choice, with some saying China’s poverty alleviation efforts have been the most effective in the world and are more worthy of study. Quite a few have even said China deserves the Nobel Prize for economics for successfully lifting about 800 million people out of poverty over the past four decades. But since the three winners are experts in development economics, this year’s Nobel Prize for economics is seen as highlighting the global need for eradicating poverty and achieving common economic growth. Since the end of World War II, the gap between devel


By China Daily
October 29, 2019

Opinion

Nepal must not support or defend the police’s use of excessive force or extrajudicial killings

The perpetrators have to face the full weight of their actions. The National Human Rights Commission’s report that Kumar Paudel was ‘killed after he was taken into custody’ is a big announcement, condemning the police’s and Home Ministry’s version of the events surrounding his death. According to the country’s top rights-protecting body, the Sarlahi district in-charge of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal was killedextrajudicially, and not in an encounter, or ‘police action’, as claimed by the police and Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. The rights commission being the first impartial body to come up with such a conclusion, th


By The Kathmandu Post
October 25, 2019