Lawyers representing a newly formed Europe-based human rights organisation have requested the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Bangladesh government officials, including the prime minister.
Toby Cadman, a lawyer who also represents the Jamaat-e-Islami leaders accused of international crimes committed during the 1971 war, on Tuesday lodged a request for an investigation with the office of the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the Hague and met up with officials.
The request for an investigation is being made under Article 15 of the Rome Statute of the ICC which allows prosecutors to receive information on alleged crimes and undertake a preliminary examination.
On the basis of an application by the prosecutor, a pre-trial court can authorise a formal investigation if there is ‘a reasonable basis to proceed.’ The court must consider that the allegations are sufficiently ‘grave’ to justify an investigation.
Human Rights Watch told New Age that any referral for investigation would ‘take time’ and that an accountability process needs to take place now.
‘The government should investigate all allegations of abuses by both opposition groups as well as extrajudicial killings and disappearances by security forces,’ Tejshree Thapa, HRW’s Asia researcher, stated.
Bangladesh ratified the Rome Statute in March 2010 giving the ICC jurisdiction to prosecute those alleged to have committed international crimes in the country.
In making this application, Cadman is representing the International Coalition for Freedoms of Rights, a network of international lawyers and activists set up after the military coup in Egypt.
The summary of the written representation states, ‘The government has systemically sought to increasingly repress opposition to its rule, through murder, torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment, persecution and other inhumane acts.’
It goes on to claim, ‘The crimes have been committed systematically … through state machinery, including the police force, the Rapid Action Battalion, the Border Guard Bangladesh, the judiciary and judicial system.’
Cadman’s representation states that prime minister Sheikh Hasina, several senior ministers, and the heads of the law enforcement agencies were ‘in positions to effectively exercise control over or direct the political and police action in Bangladesh.’
It also goes on to say that in December 2013, the prime minister’s son had issued a public statement calling ‘for members of the opposition Islamist political party to be wiped out. In the days following his statement, numerous members of the opposition were killed.’