Bangladesh Ready to Give ‘Technical Support’ in ICJ Rohingya Case

Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Sunil Barua
Dhaka and Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
191209_ICJ_rohingya_1000.JPG Hasina Begum, a survivor of ethnic-based violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, gestures as she speaks during an interview at a hotel in The Hague, Netherlands, Dec. 9, 2019.

Bangladesh is sending a delegation to The Hague, where Dhaka is prepared to give Gambia “technical support” in its case before the International Court of Justice alleging that Myanmar committed genocide against Rohingya Muslims, the Bangladeshi foreign minister said Monday.

Dhaka’s foreign secretary will head the 20-member delegation as the proceedings at the ICJ open on Tuesday, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said.

“If Gambia seeks any technical support, we will provide them [with it],” he told BenarNews.

Gambia last month brought a lawsuit against Myanmar before the ICJ. The African nation is accusing the Southeast Asia nation of state-sponsored genocide for a brutal, military-led crackdown against Rohingya in 2017 that left thousands of members of the stateless community dead and drove more than 740,000 of them across the border to Bangladesh.

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will lead her country’s legal defense in The Hague.

Gambia, which is predominantly Muslim, filed the suit on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a group of 57 Islamic-majority nations. Bangladesh also is a member of the world’s largest Muslim inter-governmental body.

“A 20-member team, led by the foreign secretary, goes to The Hague on Monday to provide technical support to Gambia, who filed a case on behalf of the OIC and against Myanmar on the charge of genocide,” Momen said.

The Bangladeshi delegation could provide technical support to Gambia, such as through showing them government documents concerning Rohingya refugees, he added.

“Gambia wants a ruling from the ICJ that Myanmar stops the torture against the Rohingya in Rakhine [state] and guarantees the safety and security of the refugees in their homeland. And, as an OIC member, we support Gambia,” Momen said.

A few days after Gambia lodged its case with the ICJ, the International Criminal Court (ICC), a sister court that is also based in The Hague, authorized its prosecutor’s office to investigate alleged crimes against humanity by Myanmar’s military that forced the massive Rohingya influx into Bangladeshi territory.

Earlier this year, an ICC team visited Rohingya refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh to gather information and lay the ground work for a potential case against Myanmar.

A decision by the ICJ on Gambia’s suit could “convince the Rohingya to return to Rakhine,” said Momen, the foreign minister.

He noted that Dhaka was carrying on with diplomacy toward Naypyidaw regarding a November 2017 bilateral deal that aims to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to Myanmar. So far, efforts to implement their voluntary return have stalled because many Rohingya Muslims have expressed fears about going back to Rakhine.

As an OIC member, “Bangladesh will support Gambia’s position,” Faruk Khan, chairman of the Bangladeshi Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and an MP with the ruling Awami League party, told BenarNews.

He predicted the ICJ case could last two years, during which “we will also remain diplomatically engaged with Myanmar to settle the Rohingya crisis. We want the Rohingya to be repatriated by any means,” Khan said.

In Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, a Rohingya refugee leader said his people were looking forward to seeing the international court proceedings unfold in the Netherlands.

“The upcoming hearings at the ICJ makes us upbeat that we will get justice. The Myanmar military will not be able to prove themselves innocent of committing such grievous crimes,” he said.

“If the Myanmar military is made accountable, our safety in Arakan (Rakhine) will be ensured – otherwise not. A failure to try them will encourage them to exterminate us all,” he told BenarNews.

Barbed-wire fencing goes up

In other news related to the Rohingya, the Bangladeshi army has started to erect barbed-wire fencing around Rohingya camps in Ukhia, a sub-district of Cox’s Bazar, to prevent the 1.1 million refugees who are sheltering there from trying to flee, according to the military’s spokesman, Lt. Col. Abdullah Ibn Zaid.

In September, a parliamentary defense committee recommended that the government install fencing around the refugee camps to contain Rohingya because it deemed them to be security threats.

BenarNews talked Monday to an army official who was supervising the installation of pillars for fencing at the number 11, 12, 13 and 19 camps in Palongkhali, a local area.

“The barbed wire will be installed in the next week,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

Meanwhile, Gen. Aziz Ahmed, the Bangladeshi army chief of staff departed on Sunday for a four-day visit to Myanmar, where he was scheduled to meet with Vice Senior Gen. Soe Win, the deputy chief of that country’s armed forces, to discuss a range of bilateral matters, said Lt. Col. Zaid.

“Enhancing the existing friendly relations between the two armies, the exchange of trainings, goodwill visits and mutual cooperation, and the return of the displaced Myanmar nationals from Bangladesh are likely to come up for discussion,” Zaid, the director of the military’s Inter Services Public Relations unit, told BenarNews.

Ahmed is due back from Myanmar on Dec. 11.


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