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The Maastricht Diplomat

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[The New York Times] Bangladeshi defence criticises press in Rohingya trial

The International Criminal Court convened again this morning to enumerate the list of evidence presented by the prosecution incriminating Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal. Attention was drawn to the case of Bhasan Char, a remote silt island in the Bay of Bengal where nearly 20,000 Rohingya refugees were relocated in 2020 and 2021. The island formed in 2006 off of silt flowing from the Himalayan mountains and is prone to flooding during monsoon season. There is no freshwater, which has to be imported from the continent, and a shortage of food, as well as a lack of schools and access to health care. One child living on Bhasan Char referred to it as an “island jail in the middle of the sea” in a Human Rights Watch report.

The defence’s response to the prosecution’s evidence raised a few eyebrows amongst the press. Suddenly, the issue was the professionalism and credibility of non-governmental organisations and journalists. The prosecution did take advantage of this to alert the press, turning this trial into a confrontation of morals. Indeed, as the defence took over to present their evidence, their first strategy was to show examples of refugees being mistreated and deported elsewhere, for example in France or the United States. The underlying comment made here is a rather classical one: the liberal West has no legitimacy to lecture us, they should clean up their own backyard first.

However, by criticising the work of the press and stigmatising Rohingyas, reifying them to ‘gangs’, the defence of the Bangladeshi government only further demonstrates a fundmental lack of democracy and respect for human rights, which enabled them to carry out the inhumane relocation of men, women and children in the first place. One shouldn’t forget that this trial comes down to the wellbeing of one of the world’s most persecuted peoples, and not yet to another North-South discussion.

— Walter Stuart, NYT correspondent in The Hague


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