Sunday, June 24, 2018

The UN Report on Kashmir: Reassuring Development

The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR) has issued its “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir.” The report contains graphic documentation of human rights violations being committed by the Indian military and paramilitary forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir. This is a significant step towards greater international recognition of the serious abuses committed against Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian army. This report takes the veil of secrecy off of India’s crimes against humanity. Perhaps now the global community can share the outrage felt by the people of Kashmir.
The report cites specific incidents where the Indian Government violated the very principles of human decency and democratic freedom against the people of Kashmir. The reports state, “In responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries…One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun.”
The report details many instances where the use of draconian laws has given a sense of total impunity to the Indian army in Kashmir. It states “The government of India has passed legislation under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act of 1990 which gives extraordinary power to all ranks of the Indian military and paramilitary forces.” These laws, the report emphasizes, “have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.
The report underscored that “Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.” And that “Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.
Many international NGO’s have suggested that Kashmir was the largest army concentration anywhere in the world. The report noted that “Civil society and media often cite the figure of 500,000 to 700,000 troops which would make Kashmir one of the most militarized zones in the world.
As we know that during the latest phase of the uprising, virtually the whole population of Kashmir turned on the streets to demand the right of self-determination to be given to the people of the territory. The report underlines this fact by stating; “While Indian-Administered Kashmir has experienced waves of protests in the past—in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 2008 and 2010—this current round of protests appears to involve more people than the past, and the profile of protesters has also shifted to include more young, middle-class Kashmiris, including females who do not appear to have been participating in the past.
It is a fact that bilateral talks between India and Pakistan have failed because they sought to bypass the leadership of the people of Kashmir, which is the primary party to the dispute. This fact has been recognized in the report which clearly says, “There remains an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir who have been suffering seven decades of conflict. Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and accountability for past and current human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties and redress for victims. Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir.
The Indian human rights organizations and NGO’s including ‘The People’s Union of Civil Liberties’, and others sent out teams to Kashmir to study specific allegations of human rights abuses including torture and publish reports on their findings, which are often highly critical of government authorities. The United Nations report validates these finding by suggesting that [As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture under any circumstances (Article 7), India is obliged to ensure that no person is “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” There have long been persistent claims of torture by security forces in Kashmir.] Here are few more examples of torture cited in the report about torture.
  • On 18 August 2016, a 30-year-old college lecturer, Shabir Ahmad Mangoo, died after being severely beaten in the custody of the Indian Army.”
  • Another case of torture involving the Indian Army is that of manual laborer Nasrullah Khan who was allegedly detained and tortured at the Indian Army’s 27 Rashtriya Rifles camp on 31 August 2017.
Medical services and ambulances are clearly being targeted for no other reason than that they are carrying young men who show evidence of having already been in the line of fire somewhere and therefore again become victimized. There is clearly an intent to physically disable these young men and the civilian population. The report warns that “Doctors in Srinagar accused the security forces of firing tear gas near hospitals and, in some cases, inside the hospital, which affected their ability to work and further affected the health of the patients.
Meanwhile to get the attention of international community remains a challenge. The world powers have taken a hands-off stance in having asked India for permission to send in a team to investigate. On the other hand, India does not allow the Kashmiri human rights activist to visit the international forums to raise the subject of human rights. Here are few examples cited in the report.
  • Human rights defenders who have tried to bring international attention to the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir have faced reprisals while access has been obstructed for some journalists.
  • …prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arrested and detained under PSA on 15 September 2016, a day after being prevented from traveling to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  • Human rights lawyer Kartik Murukutla, who works with Khurram Parvez at JKCCS, was detained at the New Delhi airport immigration desk on 24 September 2016 on his return from Geneva after attending the same Council session.
  • French journalist and documentary film-maker Paul Comiti was arrested on 9 December 2017 in Srinagar for allegedly violating Indian visa conditions.
It is well documented that the bloody occupation has resulted in massive human rights violations, particularly targeting women and children. The sanctity of women has been violated, in a gruesome and unforgiving fashion. The UN report upholds that [In the 2013 report on her mission to India, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said, “[W]omen living in militarized regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states, live in a constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public. Information received through both written and oral testimonies highlighted the use of mass rape, allegedly by members of the State security forces, as well as acts of enforced disappearance, killings and acts of torture and ill-treatment, which were used to intimidate and to counteract political opposition and insurgency.”] The United Nations report makes the following recommendation to the UN Human Rights Council to, “Consider the findings of this report, including the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.
The report also makes 17 recommendations to the Government of India so as to bring these atrocities to an end, including:
  • Urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990.
  • Establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings which have occurred since July 2016.
  • In line with its standing invitation to the Special Procedures, accept the invitation requests of the almost 20 mandates that have made such requests; in particular, accept the request of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and facilitate its visit to India, including to Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.
It is our hope that the United Nations report will mobilize the policymakers of the members’ states of the UN Human Rights Council to do everything in their constitutional power to stop the killings in Kashmir. It is further our hope that the policymakers of these member countries will look to solving the root cause of the problem – the unfulfilled promise of self-determination as guaranteed by successive United Nations Security Council resolutions.
We believe that history is not predestined, and it is up to us to make peace its destiny in Kashmir through all of our energies, goodwill, wisdom, and compassion for the tragic afflictions of that once glorious land.

International community failed Myanmar’s Rohingya

An activist says the international community has failed Rohingya Muslims, adding that the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) probe into Myanmar’s atrocities against the country’s persecuted minority group needs to be done with "a level of urgency."

“The international community has been really incompetent to deal with it. The United States and the Western world, if anything have actually rewarded Myanmar government by removing sanctions … while people are being ethnically cleansed and this has been established by the United Nations. The international community has really failed dismally when it comes to Myanmar and indeed other areas but international court needs to follow this if indeed we are going to have any sort of respectability for international law because everyone else has failed,” Massoud Shadjareh, head of the Islamic Human Rights Commission told Press TV in an interview on Saturday.

Disturbing accounts and evidence of Rohingya women tied to trees and raped by Myanmar’s military forces as well as men shoved into mass graves and set on fire have been turned over to the ICC for potential probe of the atrocities.

The evidence was submitted to the court by a coalition of Bangladeshi organizations as the ICC prosecutors are pressing to conduct an investigation into broad allegations of forced deportation of the minority Muslim population from Myanmar, where the international body has no jurisdiction.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee Myanmar since August 2017 following a brutal campaign of violence conducted by the military. The mass carnage has been described as both ethnic cleansing and “having all the hallmarks of genocide” by the UN.

The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations but are denied citizenship and are branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.

The UN has described the 1.1-million-strong Muslim community as the most persecuted minority in the world.

UN Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng praises Bangladesh

UN Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng praises Bangladesh for the response to the refugee crisis

The United Nations (UN) on Saturday commended the commitment demonstrated by the government of Bangladesh in supporting the Rohingya refugees and stressed that the root causes of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar must be addressed.

"The Bangladeshi people demonstrated very early on, their solidarity towards the Rohingya people, providing them with shelter and support when they arrived," said UN Under Secretary General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng.

The under secretary general was addressing the closing session of a workshop titled "Fostering Peaceful and Inclusive Communities in Bangladesh: The Role of Religious Leaders and Actors" at a hotel in the city.

He stressed the importance of ensuring Rohingya refugees are given opportunities to uplift themselves educationally and have access to livelihood opportunities in Bangladesh until they can return to Myanmar.

Adama Dieng said religious leaders can play a very important role by promoting messages of peace and tolerance and by fostering dialogue between the Rohingya refugees and host communities.

"I hope the religious leaders and actors, as well as policy makers and civil society representatives present here today will continue to show this same humanity", Dieng said.Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Md Nojibur Rahman, conveyed Sheikh Hasina's message of support for interfaith initiatives that promote social cohesion and respond to pressing development challenges in Cox's Bazar district resulting from the influx of Rohingya refugees.

Stressing that the government of Bangladesh was fully committed to working with the United Nations and civil society to address the Rohingya crisis, the principal secretary encouraged religious leaders to also support this cause.

UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo emphasized that the government and the people of Bangladesh are the biggest donors to the Rohingya response.

She said the UN is committed to assisting Bangladesh, but it was host communities in Cox's Bazar who were the true 'first responders'.

Mia Seppo praised Bangladeshi host communities for their compassion, stating that Bangladesh's traumatic experience in 1971, with millions of Bangladeshis forced to flee as refugees, had made the country particularly generous towards refugees from other nations.

She also underlined that the biggest challenge in the region is to ensure a sense of hope for a better future, and that interventions need to address the urgent needs of Bangladeshi host communities affected by the crisis, just as they also aim to improve conditions for the refugees themselves.

During the second and last day of the event, a broad range of Bangladeshi religious leaders and actors, government policymakers, academics, civil society and United Nations representatives discussed ways to promote dialogue and social cohesion in Cox's Bazar following the influx of Rohingya refugees.

The event was jointly organized by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Save and Serve Foundation.

The meeting also focused on how the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes, developed by the Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect and launched by the United Nations Secretary General in July 2017, could be implemented in the areas in Cox's Bazar affected by the Rohingya crisis.

Meanwhile, Deputy Spokesman for the UN SecretaryGeneral Farhan Haq said the UN is trying to facilitate the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

"We need to make sure that the conditions in Myanmar are conducive to their return," he told reporters in a regular briefing at the UN headquarters on Friday.

ICC gives Myanmar deadline over Rohingya case jurisdiction

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has given Myanmar just over a month to respond to a prosecution request that it consider a case on the alleged deportation of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya to Bangladesh.
On Friday, The Guardian newspaper published details from evidence that has been sent to the ICC and forms part of the investigation.
The document included accounts from a 10-year-old girl who was repeatedly gang-raped after her family was shot dead and a 25-year-old woman whose family was locked inside a house that was set on fire by soldiers.
The ICC published a decision on Thursday that gives authorities in Myanmar until July 27 to respond to an earlier request for the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over the alleged crimes.
The court has no jurisdiction in Myanmar, which is not a member state of the international tribunal.
But prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has argued that the crossing of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh, which is a party, means the tribunal could seek powers of jurisdiction nonetheless.
The ICC decision asks Myanmar to submit their observations on the court's jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the border crossing of Rohingya into Bangladesh.
"Considering that the crime of deportation is alleged to have commenced on the territory of Myanmar, the chamber deems it appropriate to seek observations from the competent authorities of Myanmar on the prosecutor's request," the ICC decision said.
New legal theory
Speaking from Bangkok, Thailand, analyst Benjamin Zawacki told Al Jazeera the prosecutor is putting forward "a new legal theory".
He said cases typically come to the ICC when a member state requests the court exercise jurisdiction, or when the UN Security Council refers a case.
"We all expect [Myanmar] will refuse jurisdiction before the end of next month," he said.
The UN Security Council has not referred the case to the ICC, meaning the prosecutor had "no choice but to put forth a new legal theory," Zawacki said.
"We need to wait to see whether or not the judges of the ICC accept it.
"If the judges accept the legal theory as being valid, [Bensouda] will presumably move forward with her investigation in hopes of identifying perpetrators of these grave international crimes and eventually try to prosecute them and hold them accountable."
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017.
Myanmar's security forces have been accused of rape, killing, torture and the burning of Rohingya homes.
The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has called the Rohingya crisis "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Whatever happened to Buddhism, religion of peace and compassion?

By Paul Fuller
23 Jun 2018

Monks belonging to the hardline Buddhist group MaBaTha rally outside the US embassy in Yangon. Photo: AFP
Tolerance and compassion may be the qualities most often associated with Buddhism. But Asia has been witnessing a spate of violence as new Buddhist movements emerge across the region based on the idea that the religion is under threat and needs protection. Fuelled by a particularly strong sense of Buddhist identity collated with national and ethnic anxieties, this form of Buddhism – based on a localised form of the religion – evokes a rhetoric of intolerance and discrimination that justifies behaviour in stark contrast to the traditional image of peace and enlightenment.
Myanmar police prepare for a rally by the hardline Buddhist group MaBaTha at the US embassy. Photo: AFP
In Myanmar, where thousands of Muslim Rohingya have been massacred in the past year triggering an exodus, Buddhist groups have been reacting in radical ways to questions of identity. The most prominent reaction has been from a movement known as the Amyo Barthar Thathanar (Organisation to Protect Race and Religion), often known by the Burmese acronym MaBaTha. Led by prominent Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, this group has been rebranded as the Buddha Dhamma Parahita Foundation (Foundation for the Welfare of Buddhism) and enjoys widespread support.
The MaBaTha grew out of various groups including an earlier nationwide organisation within Myanmar known as the 969 Movement.
The 969 Movement encouraged Burmese citizens to frequent only Buddhist-owned businesses and purchase goods displaying the group’s symbol, which signified that the premises were owned by Buddhists. This symbol is the Buddhist or sasana flag, with the Burmese digits 969 superimposed on it.
The flag of the 969 Movement. Photo: Internet
Groups like the MaBaTha and the 969 movement are part of a phenomenon in which Theravada Buddhism, the school of Buddhism practised in South and Southeast Asia, is used as an ideological vehicle with racial and national identity as its core. This has led to conflicts based upon the conflation of ethnic and religious identities and a rhetoric of intolerance, discrimination and, very often, an overt form of Islamophobia. This is not the Buddhism of the Pali Canon, or of the popular imagination. It is a Buddhism in which the preservation and defence of Buddhism (the sasana) is more important than cultivating wisdom, calm and compassion.
This does not conform to the idea of Buddhism cherished in the popular imagination. However, if we put aside our romantic idea of Buddhism, how surprised should we be by these emerging Buddhist narratives? There is little historical evidence for an egalitarian, liberal, multicultural and secular Buddhist society other than in this imagined version of Buddhism. This is not to suggest that the extremism of MaBaTha-type movements might ever have been normal in Buddhist culture, but it would be wrong to deny that narratives of ethnic and religious identity have indeed been important factors in Buddhist societies. Over time, these have created complex Buddhist cultures that do not conform to our simplistic ideas of Buddhism.
Myanmar police guard the US embassy during a rally by supporters of the hardline Buddhist group MaBaTha in Yangon. Photo: AFP
When Buddhists act in a violent way, or one that supports ethnic distinctions, this is usually supposed to be a deviation from “authentic Buddhism”. This authenticity is challenged severely by the rise of Buddhist extremism in Myanmar, which demands a new vocabulary to understand this phenomenon – one that uses terms not readily associated with Buddhism. Descriptions of Buddhist violence, Buddhist nationalism, prejudice and discrimination are all ideas which form part of Buddhist extremism. These notions now need to be accepted if we are to understand Buddhism in modern Asia.
MaBaTha supporters in Yangon. Photo: AFP
In Myanmar and wider Buddhist Asia, the notion of national and ethnic identity and shared cultural and ethnic characteristics distinguishing Buddhists from non-Buddhists can be used in a number of ways. For example, in Thailand there is the idea of “nation, religion, monarch” and in Myanmar “nation, language and religion”. In both cases, the idea of adherence and allegiance to Buddhism is linked to other factors in the formation of identity. The defence of one’s religion is linked to these other themes of national and ethnic identity. To defend one is to defend the other.
Ultra-nationalist monk Ashin Wirathu. Photo: AFP
The threat to Buddhism in much of Buddhist Asia is perceived to come from Islam. Buddhist leaders like Ashin Wirathu promote themselves as defenders of Buddhism. These self-proclaimed protectors of Buddhism can use arguments to justify why they can act in aggressive ways to defend Buddhist institutions. This protection of Buddhism is key in the recent Burmese discourse about the relationship of Buddhism and national identity, making it both a rallying call of Burmese Buddhist nationalists and a key element in what it means to be Burmese.
Some Buddhist leaders have justified violence against non-Buddhists. Sitagu Sayadaw is one of the most respected religious leaders in Myanmar, known for his teachings and for his philanthropic work. In a recent sermon, he clearly intended to suggest that the killing of those who are not Buddhist is justified on the grounds that those who do not follow Buddhist precepts and do not take refuge in the Buddha, his teachings and the monastic community, are less than human. Violence is justified if those persecuted are not Buddhists.
The seeds of such violence are embedded in Buddhist texts and doctrines themselves. For example, Buddhist religious texts state the Buddha’s teachings are subject to decline and will disappear at a specific point in history. This lends itself to the need to preserve Buddhism for future generations and defend it against attack. There is also the textual idea that a pure version of Buddhism, existing in a particular geographical location, must be defended, and this includes protecting Buddhism against insult and disrespect. This all leads to an urgency to protect and defend Buddhism, and to the possibility of Buddhist violence. So far the target of this supposed Buddhist backlash has primarily been Islam, but other minority groups are not immune either. In Myanmar, apart from the Rohingya, there are also reports of genocidal attacks on Christian Kachins.

Watch: What's driving Myanmar's Rohingya crisis? | South China Morning Post

It seems likely that extremist Buddhist movements will continue to flourish in Myanmar. Their arguments are used by nationalist movements to create a populist mix of patriotism and religious allegiance. They have very real currency on the political stage and are likely to play an important part in the 2020 elections in Myanmar.
The bloodbaths in Myanmar, the sporadic attacks on minorities in Sri Lanka, and the assertions of Buddhist identity in Thailand that we have been witnessing of late may only be the rumblings of a more muscular form of Buddhism that Asia will have to learn to live with, as the world comes to grips with a new idea of Buddhism.
Paul Fuller is a lecturer in Buddhist Studies at Cardiff University, UK, and author of The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Back in Bangladesh – the face of endemic corruption

I arrived in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka last week via the Emirates Airlines. The flight from Newark to Dubai was delayed by an hour and the in-flight service crew were poorly prepared to do their task satisfactorily. Upon arrival in Dhaka airport, I waited for another hour and a half before I could collect all my baggage. One of the bags missed a lock; the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents had removed the lock in Newark airport to check the bag. Nothing fortunately was missing from the bag.

Since the death of my mother some three years ago, I have been visiting Bangladesh more frequently. This latest visit is planned for a long stay, almost three months so that I could spend some quality time with my father. It has become quite difficult for very senior citizens like him to be cared well, esp. when their children are settled overseas. I, for one, find myself guilty of the decision I took decades ago to settle in the USA where I had gone to complete my graduate studies. With hard-earned graduate degrees from prestigious universities came job offers that were difficult to ignore; and then with kids born and raised in the USA, the urge to return to my native country weakened for my wife and me. The political unrest and deteriorating law and order situation inside Bangladesh have not been favorable either to return permanently. But still I dream that situation would one day become better allowing people like me to return and contribute more effectively.

It’s a wet or rainy season this time of the year in Bangladesh. Since arriving in the port city of Chittagong where my father lives, I have not stepped out of our home. It has been almost four days, and yet this time, the jet-lag has really taken toll upon me messing up my sleeping pattern.

Upon suggestion of my old friends from BUET, I took a train ride from Uttara Airport station to go to Chittagong. It was a wise decision. As expected, the train came on time and arrived on time, taking less than five hours. [By the way, of all the government sectors, the rail system has been working satisfactorily for years.] One of my nephews – Salman – came to receive me at the station. It was a short commute from the train station to my father’s residence in Khulshi. My younger sister, Jessy, who has been living next door, was absent this time to receive me. She had accompanied her husband for the latter’s treatment in Chennai, India.

Despite the mushrooming of hospitals and health clinics, most Bangladeshi patients don’t have a positive perception about the local doctors and/or the health care system. Thus, those who could afford the extra expenses would rather have their treatments done outside than inside Bangladesh. Even for a minor health checkup they would go to places like Singapore, Thailand and India. It is no accident that many of the health clinics and hospitals inside India are functioning rather profitably because of such a large client/patient pool based in neighboring Bangladesh; without these patients these facilities may had to be shut down. I am, however, told that getting the Indian Visa for medical treatment is not an easy one, and could be very frustrating for the patients requiring urgent care. My brother-in-law had to wait for nearly three weeks before he was issued such a visa. Most patients would return to see the same doctors, which says a lot about the positive impression that these Indian doctors have been able to imprint in the minds of these patients and their loved ones. Thus, there is always such a big queue for visa applicants to India in Dhaka’s Indian Embassy.

Bangladesh will have its parliamentary election at the end of the year. Candidates are, thus, very busy these days selling their credentials and images to the voters. One respectable leader was cited in Sunday’s newspapers claiming that 97% of the elected MPs are corrupt. I am told that the actual figure is higher!

Betrayed repeatedly by immoral, corrupt, greedy and selfish politicians, the Bangladeshi voters have gotten accustomed to their plundering and robbery, and false promises. They still cast their votes hoping for a better future, which seems increasingly elusive these days! In her speech to the party cadre last Saturday on the 69th anniversary of the ruling Awami League, the party Chairman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina implored them to earn the trust of the ordinary people through honesty and hard work.

Sadly, honesty is becoming relative, if not an obsolete term in Bangladesh. While it still exists amongst mostly a non-tested segment (and amongst a smaller fraction of the tested segment) within the populace, finding an honest government officer wielding some power may be quite difficult. This explains partly why the country of some 160 million has such a poor perception index from the Transparency International. In 2017 it ranked 143 – worse than any of the south-Asian countries with India (ranked 81), Sri Lanka (91) and Pakistan (117).

According to the latest published reports, there are some 3.4 million judicial cases pending in Bangladesh. And thanks to an utterly corrupt system, this number is growing alarmingly every day. Compounding this problem is the presence of only 1700 judges throughout the country: meaning, on the average, every judge will have to review and judge nearly 2000 cases! If no new cases are to be added, such may take years for a hearing!

As I see it, the judicial problem is aggravated by a very corrupt system at the local level where magistrates are more prone to be bought or bribed. Some recent examples may suffice to illustrate the gravity of the problem. Last month (May 2018), during the month of Ramadan, four family members were issued two arrest warrants by two corrupt magistrates in the Chittagong Metropolitan City. Oddly, the issuance of such criminal warrants did not require any preliminary investigation to verify the veracity of the complaints of the plaintiff who falsely claimed that he was beaten and extorted money. In one warrant the main accused person was shown as 42-years old, and his daughter 36; in another warrant, the same person was shown 46-years old and his daughter 36. It did not bother or concern the ‘brilliant first-class’ magistrates to question: How could a 42- or 46-year old man have a 36-year old daughter? With ‘sweetening’ bribe money, apparently, such big flaws are irrelevant! By the way, the actual age of the main accused person is 92 and his daughter is 62 years old. By falsifying their ages, the plaintiff, Md. Shahjahan Chowdhury – a noted land-grabbing criminal who was previously convicted to 6.5 years prison term with fines for such crimes (and free now on bail), had tried to influence the lower magistrate courts to harass the lawful owners of the land. [The accused is bed-ridden and hardly walks out of his room; his daughter and son-in-law (the other accused ones) were outside Chittagong when the purported extortion and beating happened!]

Imagine the trauma faced by the family when the police knocked on its door at around 10 p.m. in the month of Ramadan when people pray the Tarawih prayer! Within half an hour, they had to face – not one but two - groups of police forces bringing such warrants; and it did not matter that the accused ones were decades older than the cited ages within those warrants! This real case says a lot about Bangladesh and its failing judicial system, and why those who have seen better don’t want to return to their native country!

In a society where law and order prevails, such a matter would have been rare and guilty parties promptly punished; the attorney general’s office or the public prosecutor’s office would find the plaintiff guilty of deliberately falsifying the court and creating disorder, and the corrupt magistrates fined and put behind the bar for their dereliction of duty and misuse or abuse of the public trust. But such irregularities are norms in today’s Bangladesh where the criminals have long arms and deep pockets to terrorize and harass law-abiding ordinary citizens of the country who have no one to come to their aid to relieve their pains and sufferings. Either they fight their own cases in a system where they and their grandchildren may never see the ultimate end of their cases or simply forget their sufferings and try to move on. In this country, government has failed them and continues to do so, despite all the promises made by the ruling party and its chairman. I often wonder: does anyone truly care for the common people!

If the above harassment could happen affecting some of the most law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who are well-educated and -connected, and socially known for their philanthropy, truthfulness and uprightness what chance does an ordinary Salimullah and Kalimullah have to survive in Bangladesh?

Even the ministers and high-ranking government officers are keenly aware of the caustic effect of systemic corruption that they have either created or failed to stop. It is not by accident that almost all the ministers and high-ranking government officials of Bangladesh have their own family members living outside the country! Many of these individuals have second or third homes in places like the UK, the USA, Australia, Dubai and Malaysia.

Friday, June 22, 2018

There are now 1.2 million Rohingya refugees

By Max Walden
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released its annual Global Trends report this week, which said that 68.5 million people were displaced worldwide as of the end of 2017. Some 16.2 million people became displaced during 2017 alone, including more than half a million Rohingya Muslims.
Global Trends reported that some 85 percent of refugees are residing in developing countries, “many of which are desperately poor and receive little support to care for these populations.”
SEE ALSO: 200,000 Rohingya at risk of landslides as monsoon hits Cox’s Bazar
The number of refugees permanently resettled, meanwhile, dropped 40 percent compared with 2016 due to declining resettlement places on offer. Just 100,000 people were resettled worldwide in 2017.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi ahead of World Refugee Day on Wednesday that: “we are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone.”
The UNHCR reported that Rohingya refugees were the third largest group of new refugees in the world, following people fleeing South Sudan and the civil war in Syria. Their exodus from Burma since August 2017 has been the largest and fastest refugee exodus in the region for decades.
Statelessness due to “restrictive provisions” in Burmese citizenship law had meant that the Rohingya have suffered “entrenched discrimination, marginalisation, and denial of a wide range of basic human rights,” it said.

Renewed violence in Rakhine State, sparked by attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Aug 25 last year, led to at least 655,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.
Mass killings, sexual violence and targeting of Rohingya villages for arson by the Tatmadaw Army and vigilantes has been described by many international observers as ethnic cleansing and even genocide. It has brought the total number of Rohingya residing in Bangladesh to more than 930,000.
“Nowhere is the link between statelessness and displacement more evident than for the Rohingya community of Myanmar, for whom denial of citizenship is a key aspect of the entrenched discrimination and exclusion that have shaped their plight for decades,” Grandi said.
Last month the UNHCR agreed upon the text of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the governments of Burma and Bangladesh, which was signed in early June.
SEE ALSO: Amnesty International: Rohingya militants massacred dozens of Hindus
The MoU was a first step towards creating a framework for cooperation to achieve “voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees” and “recovery and resilience-based development for the benefit of all communities living in Rakhine State” the UNHCR said.
An estimated 470,000 on-displaced Rohingya remained in northern Rakhine State at the end of 2017.
“Only by ending their statelessness can the Rohingya be promised a normal life and hope for the future,” concluded the UNHCR.