The International Court is the judicial body that brings to justice individuals accused of violation of the international law. The idea to create the court arose after the end of the World War II and it is based on the principle: all persons, including high-ranking state officials, accused of committing serious international crimes must be punished.
International criminal tribunals should not be considered in the same way as domestic or national courts. When people hear the words “court” and “law” – they immediately think it refers to national law, but they are wrong. There is distinction even between personnel that works in international and national courts, and much less in other characteristics.
The paper will put a special emphasis to the work of the ICTY, describing a number of positive as well as the negative sides of the Court.
The ICTY has been established at the proposal of the UN Secretary General on the basis of Resolution No. 827 of the UN Security Council of 25 May 1993. The territorial jurisdiction of the Court covers the territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (hereinafter: the former Yugoslavia), including its land surface, airspace and territorial waters, while the temporal jurisdiction includes the period from 1 January 1991, without indicating when the temporal jurisdiction ends. However, the UN Security Council ordered to the Court to end its work by 2010, by Resolution No. 1503 of 2003 and the Resolution No. 1534 of 2004. Due to the abovementioned reasons, the Court was supposed to put an end to all investigations and filing all indictments by 2004; to end all trials by 2008 and to end all appeal proceeding by 2010. However, the year is 2015 and the ICTY has not ended its work. According to some estimations given in December 2014, three out of four appeal proceedings are expected to be completed during 2015, while the judgment in the case of Ratko Mladic is expected to be rendered in March 2017 or event after this date. However, addressing the UN Security Council on 10 December 2014, President of the ICTY Theodor Meron assured that these forecasts do not mean closure of the ICTY in 2017.
The ICTY is an ad hoc court based in The Hague. The Court can prosecute only individuals and not organizations or governments. The court can impose life imprisonment as maximum penalty. As a result, the Court signed an agreement with a number of countries, in order to enable enforcement of the penalties on their territories.
Huge role of the ICTY’s Trial Chamber significantly determines work of the ICTY and it implies wide powers of arbitrators and initiative relating to probative evidence. The basic principles that the Court follows in its work are: justice, rapidity and equality of arms.
The aim of establishment of the ICTY is to bring to justice persons responsible for serious violations of the international humanitarian law during conflict in the area of the former Yugoslavia. However, “although it was obvious that many actions of the conflicting sides, people who fought within their ranks or who joined them, represent serious crimes under domestic law or the international humanitarian law (the former Yugoslavia ratified all the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Protocols of 1977), almost none of the suspects for these crimes was charged and brought to the Court until 1993”.
All violations that are put under the jurisdiction of the ICTY and which represent violation of the international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia, are divided into:
- Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949;
- Violations of the laws or customs of war;
- Crimes against humanity.
The criminal defense of crime against humanity exists under the following conditions:
- In case of an attack;
- If the accused committed the crime as part of the attack;
- If the attack was directed against any civilian population;
- If the attack was widespread or systematic;
- If the accused knows that his acts are part of a pattern of widespread or systematic crimes directed against a civilian population and if he knows that his act fit in the pattern.
Regardless of the rules that regulate work of the ICTY, its employees are faced with several challenges.
The first challenge certainly refers to a rule that an individual may be punished for grave breach of the Geneva Conventions under the Article 2 of the Statute, only if the crime for which he is charged, was committed against persons and property that are considered protected.
Another challenge is the Article 7, Paragraph 1 of the Statute, i.e. the Article 4 Paragraph 3 of the Statute. Namely, when the Court finds that the accused person had no genocidal intent, but he or she helped others to commit genocide, the question is which of these two provisions of the Statute of the Court should be applied. The first Article envisages responsibility for assisting in committing any criminal offense put under the jurisdiction of the Court, while the second Article envisages, inter alia, complicity in genocide. Furthermore, the Court has the jurisdiction to act in case of committing any of the criminal offenses listed in Article 5 of the Statute, but only if the crimes were committed in an armed conflict. Therefore, an armed conflict is a precondition for prosecution before the ICTY. At the same time, the only Article of the Statute that relates to penalties is the Article 24 that envisages the obligation of the Chamber when sentencing, to take into account gravity of the defense and individual circumstances of the perpetrator. However, the Article 2 of the Statute represents the biggest challenge and it envisages that every crime regulated by this Article, shall be committed in the context of the international armed conflict.
The first trial before the ICTY started on 7 May 1996 and the first verdict was rendered on 29 November 1996. So far, a total of 161 persons have been indicted. Proceedings against 147 persons ended, while proceedings against 14 persons are still ongoing.
Legacy of the ICTY
The region of the former Yugoslavia welcomed the establishment of the ICTY with great suspicion, complaining that incompetent body has established the Tribunal (the Security Council), and that the Court cannot be an impartial judicial body, since it has been established as a subsidiary body to the executive authority (the Security Council). However, author of this paper shares the standpoint of Dr. Vojin Dimitrijevic, who says that „in a sea of such attacks (…) legitimate and legal reviews of critics about the way The Tribunal has been established, the advisability of some of the provisions of its Statute, the quality of the rules of procedure and so on, are lost (…)“. The author also shares Dimitrijevic’ stance that work and existence of the ICTY should be seen as a “unique judicial experience in the actual application of the international humanitarian law, its written and unwritten rules and the very Statute of the first international criminal Tribunal that, despite of the fact that it has been formed on temporary basis as an ad hoc court, has acted so long and prosecuted so many persons on various posts for so many crimes that are considered international crimes”.
There is no doubt that there are positive and negative aspects of the international criminal proceedings led before all courts. Positive sides of the proceedings before the ICTY are certainly higher level of impartiality, easier ways to collect evidence, uniformity in the application of the international law and greater preventive effect of international trials. Namely, it is logical that people who are not involved in a concrete dispute, i.e. judges who are not related to armed conflicts will be more objective to decide about the dispute. National courts are almost always insufficiently objective, and these courts are not interested enough to lead proceedings against its own nationals who have committed crimes against foreign nationals. At the same time, the fact that this is a proceeding led before an international court, proceedings related to these and all other conflicts in the international community are set to be uniform, with the continuity in application of law and decision-making process.
Although a proceeding before the ICTY does not fully meet all demands which the right to fair trial puts before the Court, its practice gives hope that the proceedings will get closer to the standards of the fair trial. The procedure led before the ICTY is complex, but it was inevitable because it has been established quickly as a reaction to the situation on the ground (for example, the states harmonized their stances about formation of the International Criminal Court for years). Principles like the ones from the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (ratified by most of the states in the world) would certainly remain only a dead letter, if it was no courts like the ICTY. Namely, such courts defined an armed conflict, defined when an armed conflict begins etc.
One of the important specifics that refer to international crimes is the existence of a large number of victims. The procedural status of victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings for these crimes is a particular problem in international judiciary, because of direct or indirect risk of intimidation, reprisal or retaliation against the victims. For these reasons, rules of the ICTY include adequate provisions on protection of victims and witnesses in the proceedings. Per example, such provisions are stipulated in the rule that the main hearing will be held without the presence of the public; the rule about the protection of identity of the victims, and the rule on formation of Department for Victims and Witnesses, as the body in charge to provide support and advices to victims and witnesses and propose measure for their protection.
The ICTY has contributed to clarification of some basic concepts that are of huge importance for the international criminal law and the international humanitarian law. For example, the rule on the obligation to distinguish civilians from combatants was clarified in the judgment in the cases of Tadic, Martic, and Kupreskic, while the rule to distinguish civilian from military facilities was clarified in the judgment in cases of Kupresic, Kordic and Cerkez, judgment in cases of Kunarac and Furundzija defined torture, etc. For the first time in the history, an international court found that rape (although prohibited by humanitarian law) may constitute torture. This is also the first international court which included sexual violence as a crime against humanity in its Statute. Besides, the Court also gave huge contribution to the interpretation of serious violations of the Geneva Conventions.
According to the current President of the ICTY Theodor Meron, the ICTY has demonstrated to the world that, after half a century of impunity, it is possible to lead complex trials at the international level, in accordance with the highest international standards. The ICTY has developed an influential body of jurisprudence concerning a large number of procedural issues and issues related to evidence and thus, created conditions for establishment of new international and mixed criminal courts. The support to strengthening of national judicial systems relating to war crimes trials is certainly one of the most positive things in the heritage of the ICTY.
Many criticize the ICTY for the reason that all the accused have not been convicted especially the ones who are accused of the crime of genocide. However, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 stipulates very strict conditions for proving genocide. The Genocide is a crime that does not have to be committed during armed conflicts: the crime can be committed in peacetime, during a war, against civilians and against combatants, with or without committing widespread or systematic attack. Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, “(… genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
As the aforementioned definition reads, it is a state of mind of the perpetrator of the crime of genocide that matters (that he committed the crime with intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group). Therefore, certain group and not individuals in the group should be the main objective and likewise, the destruction should be physical or biological nature, not cultural. Proving responsibility for the crime of genocide is harder than proving responsibility for any other international crime. Murders and other prohibited acts must be committed with the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group (dolus specialis). If a prosecutor fails to prove that intention, it is considered a crime against humanity or a war crime – and the ICTY is not authorized to prosecute these crimes.
The latest criticisms directed against work of the ICTY are addressed to the President Theodor Meron, an experienced US (Israeli) lawyer and a judge. Many believe that he made terrible mistakes in individual trials which he chaired, especially in the cases of Gotovina and Markac, Stanisic and Simatovic and in a particularly interesting case from the legal point of few – case of Momcilo Perisic. The judgment in the case of Momcilo Perisic has established a new legal standard of command responsibility, providing amnesty to political leaders and military commanders in case of committing war crimes in the future period. Namely, the appeal judgment to Perisic has adopted the new specific direction criterion which has not existed in the international customary law. The question is whether court judgments discourage future threats against human civilization or the opposite? The UN Security Council has established the ICTY after some people endangered peace and security of the civilization and nowadays, some experts believe that the ICTY turned into its contradiction after Perisic’s acquittal, and its decisions jeopardize international peace, security and order.
When it comes to criticisms related to the impact of the Hague judgments to victims of the conflict, we must take into account that, when it comes to individual criminal responsibility, the ICTY is authorized to prosecute the crimes, but it has no option to adjudicate adequate compensation for victims of the crimes. Namely, primary role of the ICTY is retributive: the Court renders a judgment and defines whether someone is guilty for a certain crime or not, and orders an appropriate penalty for the crime. Of course, the ICTY also has a restorative function and it aims to ensure accountability, establish facts, bring justice for the victims and give them the right to speak, enhance the rule of law and pawing a way for reconciliation in the region. However, the ICTY is not established to be a mean for bringing complete justice to the victims and a mean to deal with the past.
Regardless of the aforementioned facts, the ICTY has taken away from us the ability to forget the past. The legacy of the ICTY is greater and more significant than occasional mistakes and judgments rendered without a legal explanation, while the Court will provide insight to future generations into judgments and facts about the atrocities.
The abovementioned text has led us to conclusion that, when it has established the ICTY, the international community has directly contributed to sanctioning of state policies and individuals responsible for initiation and conduct of armed conflicts at the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The paper also led us to conclusion that judgments rendered by the ICTY have clarified some theoretical parts of the international humanitarian law, international criminal law and the international human rights law.
Despite of many criticisms directed against the ICTY, the author of the paper believes that the ICTY has registered more positive than negative results. Unreasonably high expectations from work of the Court have been huge. At the end, when a conflict starts and when crimes happen, people say nowadays: “Send him to The Hague”, which was not the case a few years ago, when there was no court authorized to prosecute the perpetrators.
There is no doubt that existence of such a court is necessary and we could see it clearly in the case of Leipzig in 1921, when Germans were allowed to trial to themselves on their own. As a result, audience, judges, prosecutors greeted some people who were accused of crimes when they entered a courtroom, not to mention that all sanctions were minimal; two months, six months and four years of imprisonment. Therefore, author of the paper believes that foreign judges did not bring expertise in proceedings related to this territory, but impartiality.
Author of the paper considers the following facts as the greatest contributions of the ICTY:
- The ICTY is a legal body that represents a basis for establishment of new judicial bodies;
- The ICTY revealed limitations of trials;
- The ICTY has left us legacy.
On the other hand, the fact that the ICTY has primarily focused on jurisprudence and its impact, without realizing how much it is important to reach out to the victims, is the main deficiency of this body.
A Threat Assessment of South China Sea
Authors: Areeja Syed and Muhammad Rizwan*
In the international arena, rapidly evolving economic power, China has emerged as a colossal threat to the U.S and her hegemonic powers. 21st century is witnessing both U.S and Asia to bridge their gulfs and draw closer to each other. During the cold wartimes, the United States was more inclined to decrease the power and its influence of Soviet Union in Asia but with the massive alteration in the international political and economic scenario, upsurge of china and its regional dominion has become the main trepidation for the U.S. Many tactics have been adopted by U.S to contain china but many tensions keep arising between these states, like trade war, south china conflict, Taiwan issue.
It’s a well-established fact that The Pacific Ocean is one of the major and important Oceans in the world. The word pacific means peace and serenity. It was named Pacific in 1520 by a voyager Ferdinand Magellan when he sailed through it. The Pacific Ocean stretches from California to china covering 60 million square miles and spreads tens of thousands of feet under the outward of the ocean in many regions. Contrary to its name, The Pacific is, a violent and humongous water body. Most of its part is still unexplored and undiscovered yet this half-discovered ocean is contributing considerably in changing humans’ lifestyle through deep-sea excavating, industrialized harpooning and fossil-fuel fiery. This extensive ocean is replete with plenty of earth’s most idiosyncratic kinds of life. South China Sea is a part of Pacific Ocean and is a bone of contention between ASEAN states and China. The United States of America while having cordial relation with ASEAN state is trying act as balance in South China Sea. While running his presidential campaign, in 2018,Donald Trump viciously badgered Barack Obama for being bungling of averting China from escalating its influence in the South China Sea. Trump blamed Chinese Navy for being aggressive to the US in the undecided sea area. China has clashes with the US owing to the regional incongruities in the South China Sea. Also, China has disagreements with Japan in the East China Sea. Both the disputed regions are probable to be rich in oil reserves and several other natural resources and can enhance the international trade. China retains its claim, claiming almost the entire South China Sea.
It is a row over land and veracity over ocean areas, and the two island chains Parcels and the Spartlys, demanded by an assortment of nations in whole or in share. These chains include hundreds of sharp cliffs, minor islands, shorelines, and aquatic life, like the Scarborough lagoon, adjacent to one another. The ocean itself is a chief trading path and abode to fisheries on which the people living alongside the region depend for their wellbeing. China has always made extensive claims in South China Sea that whole sea belongs to it. It specifies the two clusters of islands sliding inside their limits entirely. Philippines is the other noteworthy plaintiff in the region and as a part of grouping considers its physical nearness to the spratly island as the foundation and primer. The other island chain, Scarborough Shoal well-known as Hengyang island in China was claimed by both the Philippines and China just over 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from Chinese territory. Other states like Malaysia and Brunei also approve their avowal to region in the South China as declared in The United Nations convention on the Maritime law, as described by UNCLOS. Burnei does not hold any of the disputed islands, but Malaysia has control over a quite minuscule number of Spratly islands.
The US navy claims that it is safeguarding and watching the South China Sea to guarantee the freedom of navigation in that region predominantly where China has seized many islands and reefs into its control. This disputed region is the route of trillions of dollars of trade travels annually which is at stake due to the conflict and belligerence in the South China Sea can also threaten and berate the safety of a region. This region cannot afford any armed skirmish that would have possibly far-ranging and callous repercussions. This war is the exact portrayal of China-U.S supremacy scuffle. The problem is for influence and military dominance in the region between China and US. It is becoming a same cold war like situation in which both countries are trying their best to dominate a particular region. But the problem is, during the course of these events even a miscalculation or small incident can escalate in to full fledge which will be very difficult to control even for belligerent parties.
*Muhammad Rizwan is pursuing M.phil in International Relations from COMSATS University Islamabad.
National Interest surpassing human rights: Case study of Kashmir
Authors: Rizwan Malik and Areeja Syed
The Indian government revoked the exceptional status accorded to Indian-occupied Kashmir in Indian constitution. This sudden development is the most sweeping political move on the disputed region in seventy years. A presidential pronouncement issued on August 5 revoked Article 370 of Indian constitution that ascertained the special rights to the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir, including the rights to have her own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all affairs apart from communication, defence, and foreign policies. This shocking move literally shook Kashmir and Pakistan at their cores. Now It has been more than one month now since Indian forces started a lock down in Indian administered Kashmir. Due to continuous threat of mass protests against this illegal action, additional troops were deployed in already heavy militarized valley. Crippling curfew was imposed and Internet services were suspended. Indian security forces have also arrested all the political leadership of the valley. Different International media outlets have published news regarding the brutal suppression of local Kashmiri people by Indian forces.
With the evolution of United Nation and other international institutions, rights violation and other disputed issue that could undermine peace and stability are paid umpteen attentions by the international community. Time to time we have witnessed intervention on humanitarian bases by International Community .Even force was used in many states to stop oppressive regimes from committing atrocities.
India claims herself to be the largest democracy in the world and champion of human rights protection. But this is absolutely contrary and devious to the ground realities. Especially since BJP came into power in 2014 with an expansionist agenda, it is actively involved in different crimes and often violated the sovereignty of many states. BJP government has conducted military operation in Myanmar in 2015 without taking into confidence the local government. Later, Pakistan was targeted in February 2019 though it resulted in shooting down of one of Indian fighter jets. This shift has deteriorated the already-heightened tensions with neighboring Pakistan, which relegated its diplomatic relations with India.
Kashmir has been a bone of contention and a disputed region between Indian and Pakistan since 1947. Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in full but rule it partially. The nuclear-armed neighbors remain at daggers drawn over this issue and have fought three wars over this territory but Kashmir issue is still unresolved. A rebellion in Indian-administered Kashmir has been continuing for past 30 years. United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions on Kashmir and has given Kashmir citizens the right of self-determination .UN instructed both India and Pakistan to withdraw their troops from disputed region and to organize plebiscite there. Though India did not agree to these demands and never held a plebiscite but a special status was granted to Indian occupied Kashmir which made it a semi-autonomous region. Different round of talks were arranged between India and Pakistan to solve this dispute which means that India recognized Kashmir as international dispute.
But on August 05, 2015 BJPs government removed this special status of Kashmir and directly imposed the rule of central India.BJP has established a stance that Kashmir is integral part of India and vowed to attack even Pakistani administered Kashmir.
This illegal move of Indian authorities is accompanied by the brutal use of force in the valley. International community which asserts it as the protector of International law and human rights round the globe has basically done nothing against this inhuman/illegal occupation of Kashmir. Reason is that international community is following real politik .According to realist school of thought , International relations states only protect their own national interests. They do not have much appetite for human rights and International Law. This is best depicted in response of international community on Indian moves in Kashmir. If we analyze the international reactions to this recent development one by one we can see that these great powers have their own vested interest in India that is why they are not willing to take any concrete step. For example due to changing geopolitical situation in Asia-Pacific region United States considers India as its strategic ally against the regional power of China. According to US, Indian will contain expanding Chinese influence in south Asia and will act as balancing forces. Moreover Indian with its huge population and large economy is very good trading partner of United States .That is why US will not take any concrete steps against Indian aggression. Countries like France and Russia are huge arms exporters to India so they will not try to lose a client by taking any concrete steps against India. States like Saudi Arabia and UAE which have influence on India because to their oil exports and other trade relation will not take any action .Reason they have very strong trade ties which they do not want to threaten .Secondly they themselves are oppressing regimes so promoting human right in any other region will jeopardize their own position as international actor.
With this realpolitik prevailing at international politics Pakistan is left with pauce options. Pakistan has very strong religious and cultural bonding with Kashmir people and she considers it her legal and moral responsibility to help Kashmir people who are facing wrath of Indian forces. it is the responsibility of the International community to speak for the human rights violations in Kashmir instead on just focusing on their own vast national interests.
A bird’s eye view of Asia: A continental landscape of minorities in peril
Many in Asia look at the Middle East with a mixture of expectation of stable energy supplies, hope for economic opportunity and concern about a potential fallout of the region’s multiple violent conflicts that are often cloaked in ethnic, religious and sectarian terms.
Yet, a host of Asian nations led by men and women, who redefine identity as concepts of exclusionary civilization, ethnicity, and religious primacy rather than inclusive pluralism and multiculturalism, risk sowing the seeds of radicalization rooted in the despair of population groups that are increasingly persecuted, disenfranchised and marginalized.
Leaders like China’s Xi Jingping, India’s Narendra Modi, and Myanmar’s Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi, alongside nationalist and supremacist religious figures ignore the fact that crisis in the Middle East is rooted in autocratic and authoritarian survival strategies that rely on debilitating manipulation of national identity on the basis of sectarianism, ethnicity and faith-based nationalism.
A bird’s eye view of Asia produces a picture of a continental landscape strewn with minorities on the defensive whose positioning as full-fledged members of society with equal rights and opportunities is either being eroded or severely curtailed.
It also highlights a pattern of responses by governments and regional associations that opt for a focus on pre-emptive security, kicking the can down the road and/or silent acquiescence rather than addressing a wound head-on that can only fester, making cures ever more difficult.
To be sure, multiple Asian states, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India have at various times opened their doors to refugees.
Similarly, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) disaster management unit has focused on facilitating and streamlining repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
But a leaked report by the unit, AHA Centre, in advance of last June’s ASEAN summit was criticized for evading a discussion on creating an environment in which Rohingya would be willing to return.
The criticism went to the core of the problem: Civilizationalist policies, including cultural genocide, isolating communities from the outside world, and discrimination will at best produce simmering anger, frustration and despair and at worst mass migration, militancy and/or political violence.
A Uyghur member of the Communist Party for 30 years who did not practice his religion, Ainiwa Niyazi, would seem to be the picture-perfect model of a Chinese citizen hailing from the north-western province of Xinjiang.
Yet, Mr Niyazi was targeted in April of last year for re-education, one of at least a million Turkic Muslims interned in detention facilities where they are forced to internalize Xi Jinping thought and repudiate religious norms and practices in what constitutes the most frontal assault on a faith in recent history.
If past efforts, including an attempt to turn Kurds into Turks by banning use of Kurdish as a language that sparked a still ongoing low level insurgency, is anything to go by, China’s ability to achieve a similar goal with greater brutality is questionable.
“Most Uyghur young men my age are psychologically damaged. When I was in elementary school surrounded by other Uyghurs, I was very outgoing and active. Now I feel like I have been broken… Quality of life is now about feeling safe,” said Alim, a young Uyghur, describing to Adam Hunerven, a writer who focuses on the Uyghurs, arrests of his friends and people trekking south to evade the repression in Xinjiang cities.
Travelling in the region in 2014, an era in which China was cracking down on Uyghurs but that predated the institutionalization of the re-education camps, Mr. Hunerven saw that “the trauma people experienced in the rural Uyghur homeland was acute. It followed them into the city, hung over their heads and affected the comportment of their bodies. It made people tentative, looking over their shoulders, keeping their heads down. It made them tremble and cry.”
There is little reason to assume that anything has since changed for the better. On the contrary, not only has the crackdown intensified, fear and uncertainty has spread to those lucky enough to live beyond the borders of China. Increasingly, they risk being targeted by the long arm of the Chinese state that has pressured their host countries to repatriate them.
Born and raised in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, Rahima Akter, one of the few women to get an education among the hundreds of thousands who fled what the United Nations described as ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, saw her dreams and potential as a role model smashed when she was this month expelled from university after recounting her story publicly.
Ms. Akter gained admission to Cox’s Bazar International University (CBIU) on the strength of graduating from a Bangladeshi high school, a feat she could only achieve by sneaking past the camp’s checkpoints, hiding her Rohingya identity, speaking only Bengali, dressing like a Bangladeshi, and bribing Bangladeshi public school officials for a placement.
Ms Akter was determined to escape the dire warnings of UNICEF, the United Nations’ children agency, that Rohingya refugee children risked becoming “a lost generation.”
Ms. Akter’s case is not an isolated incident but part of a refugee policy in an environment of mounting anti-refugee sentiment that threatens to deprive Rohingya refugees who refuse to return to Myanmar unless they are guaranteed full citizenship of any prospects.
In a move that is likely to deepen a widespread sense of abandonment and despair, Bangladeshi authorities, citing security reasons, this month ordered the shutting down of mobile services and a halt to the sale of SIM cards in Rohingya refugee camps and restricted Internet access. The measures significantly add to the isolation of a population that is barred from travelling outside the camps.
Not without reason, Bangladeshi foreign minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen, has blamed the international community for not putting enough pressure on Myanmar to take the Rohingyas back.
The UN “should go to Myanmar, especially to Rakhine state, to create conditions that could help these refugees to go back to their country. The UN is not doing the job that we expect them to do,” Mr. Abdul Momen said.
The harsh measures are unlikely to quell increased violence in the camps and continuous attempts by refugees to flee in search of better pastures.
Suspected Rohingya gunmen last month killed a youth wing official of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party. Two refugees were killed in a subsequent shootout with police.
The plight of the Uyghurs and the Rohingya repeats itself in countries like India with its stepped up number of mob killings that particularly target Muslims, threatened stripping of citizenship of close to two million people in the state of Assam, and unilateral cancellation of self-rule in Kashmir.
The Islamic Religious Department in Selangor, Malaysia’s richest state, this week issued a sermon that amounts to a mandatory guideline for sermons in mosques warning against “the spread of Shia deviant teachings in this nation… The Muslim ummah (community of the faithful) must become the eyes and the ears for the religious authorities when stumbling upon activities that are suspicious, disguising under the pretext of Islam,” the sermon said.
Malaysia, one state where discriminatory policies are unlikely to spark turmoil and political violence, may be the exception that confirms the rule.
Ethnic and religious supremacism in major Asian states threatens to create breeding grounds for violence and extremism. The absence of effective attempts to lessen victims’ suffering by ensuring that they can rebuild their lives and safeguard their identities in a safe and secure environment, allows wounds to fester.
Permitting Ms. Akter, the Rohingya university student, to pursue her dream, would have been a low-cost, low risk way of offering Rohingya youth an alternative prospect and at the very least a reason to look for constructive ways of reversing what is a future with little hope.
Bangladeshi efforts to cut off opportunities in the hope that Rohingya will opt for repatriation have so far backfired. And repatriation under circumstances that do not safeguard their rights is little else than kicking the can down the road.
Said human rights advocate Ewelina U. Ochab: “It is easy to turn a blind eye when the atrocities do not happen under our nose. However, we cannot forget that religious persecution anywhere in the world is a security threat to everyone, everywhere.”
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