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The Maastricht Diplomat

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[Al Jazeera] Bangladesh’s Kamal guilty of crime against humanity in Rohingya case

Ahead of the verdict on the trial of Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, who oversaw the transfer of tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees to the silt island of Bhasan Char, the International Criminal Court held a press conference attended by Al Jazeera and Reuters.

Mr Kamal’s defence claimed that he was being singled out as a scapegoat for Myanmar’s actions, as the ICC is not able to prosecute the Myanmar government. Blaming the Bangladeshi government would be an unfair decision, they said, denying their efforts to welcome and protect a stranded and oppressed minority population. “Bangladesh welcomed the Rohingyas with open arms, however, if the international community wishes to provide financial support so that they do not have to stay in small refugee camps and have better living conditions, their donations are welcome”, they added.

From the Bangladeshi perspective, a ‘guilty’ verdict would send the wrong message to the international community and limit their capacity to cater to the wave of Rohingya refugees. The prosecution stressed the fact that it is Mr Kamal who is prosecuted for “the atrocities faced” by the refugees, not the Bangladeshi government. They acknowledged the efforts the government made while stating that these should not overshadow the wrongdoings carried out under Mr Kamal’s command. Their evidence and witnesses confirmed a systemic form of violence exerted on Rohingya people, and the need to hold government officials and the police accountable.

In the earlier days of the trial, the defence shed light on “similar practices” in Western countries, as reported by the New York Times. While the prosecution reckoned the outcome of the trial could open a conversation on the treatment of refugees worldwide, they argued that the comparison is “misguided”, and should not undermine the tragic and horrible character of the Bhasan Char case. As they mentioned that an International Court of Justice investigation on allegations of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar is currently underway, the prosecution called for a clear separation between different cases.

The Court eventually found Mr Kamal guilty on two of the four counts he was charged with. The second count was adopted despite a split in jury votes, which the defence laments. They framed the decision as a demonstration of the West oppressing “poor” Southern countries. For the prosecution, it was the “result of months of hard work”.

- Suresh Aluthgama, Political correspondent in The Hague


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