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The cries of pain yet reverberates the ears of the living in Bangladesh

Victory Day is celebrated every 16 December in Bangladesh to mark the anniversary of the surrender of Pakistan’s armed forces in Bangladesh at the end of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

by Anwar A. Khan

If war is necessary, it is a necessary evil. Its evil is sometimes concealed for a time by its glamour and excitement but when war is seen in its reality, there is a little glory about it. At its best, it is hideous calamity. It brings in awful loss of life. In our great liberation war of 1971, millions of men, women and children were killed; many died of diseases, and encountered untold sufferings.

If we recall the divested homes and wrecked hearts tell the rest of the story with tears. It brought in destruction of property, waste of health, dislocation of trade and industry, and general upsetting of the social life of the nation on war imposed on us deliberately by Pakistani military junta.

Men have found way to abolish their great evils, such as, slavery and if they want to abolish war they can definitely find ways to do that as where there is a will there is a way. We must not think the way American rogue state think.

Some people forget that war always brings destruction on mass scale. They forget Mahatma Gandhi’s teaching of non-violence, following which he freed his motherland from the shackles of slavery. They forget that if Gandhi could oust the powerful Britishers by dint of non-violence, why not others follow the same foot print.

In the month of our victory, we want to remember that wars are necessary evils and their horrors are so many and of such magnitude that they cannot be described in words. We must not forget the horrors of the two world wars. In the wars, there was mass-killing and destruction of property. Thousands were made widows and orphans. War brings hatred and spreads falsehood. People become selfish and brutal. As a result humanity and morality suffers.

War is the enemy of all humanity and human civilisation. Nothing good can be achieved out of it. Hence, it can never be glorified in any form. It not only hampers the development the nation but also uproots social cohesiveness. It slows down the pace of progress of mankind.

Wars are not the solution of the problems. Instead they generate problems and create hatred among nations. War can decide one issue but gives birth too many. Bangladesh, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the greatest horrible faces of the consequence of wars. Even after so many decades, people are suffering from the miseries of war. Whatever be the cause of war, it always results in destruction of life and property at large.

One obnoxious face of modern warfare is terrorism which targets the strongest of the strong and causes dangers beyond control of anyone. Terrorists do not discriminate between races, religion, and culture. They target only the humanity as a whole.

Victory Day is celebrated every 16 December in Bangladesh to mark the anniversary of the surrender of Pakistan’s armed forces in Bangladesh at the end of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

We are in the know of the union with Pakistan only came about as a result of the partition of British India into Muslim and Hindu zones in 1947 – India becoming one nation and Pakistan another. However, West Pakistan (now Pakistan) was separated by hundreds of miles from East Pakistan (Bangladesh), which made for a most unnatural union.

Later, Pakistan began to refuse equal status to the Bengali language and otherwise ignite resentment in Bangladesh. Finally, in 1971, a bloody broke out with Pakistan as Bengalis demanded an independent and sovereign state.

Aided by India, and by the logistical difficulty of holding onto a land so geographically separated from their homeland, Pakistan was finally defeated. The Pakistani General Amir Niazi finally surrendered to the joint forces of Bangladesh and India on 16 December at the Ramna Race Course in Dhaka. The crowds gathered to witness the event cheered wildly. Within only a few months’ time, most other nations of the world had recognised Bangladesh’s hard-won independence.

The 16th of December, 1971 is a red letter day in our national history. It was on this day we were to snatch our independences after a life and death liberation war for long nine months. This victory was a victory of right against wrong. It was a war of self-emancipation. Every year we observe this day in a colorful manner. This day reminds us of the supreme in a colorful manner.

This day also reminds us of the supreme sacrifice of our freedom fighters who will ever shine in our hearts like the luminous stars in the sky. But at the same time, we must remember the spirit of the liberation war.

We wanted a country where justice will prevail over injustice and wrong. Instead, we are now having a night-marish experience of lawlessness, violence and misrule. The lords of the mischief mongers are getting upper hand in the society, whereas the meek and mild become the worst sufferers. Disorder in everything has become the order of the day.

I call back after the victory, I felt proud and dignified. I revisited the well-known battlefields, which were familiar to me, after the war was over.

December - the month of the war victory marks great memories for us as we lived the moments of victory on 16 December 1971, and feel glory of eliminating all sense of sorrow incurred by the defeat of Pakistan’s military forces.

On this month of December, we pay rich tributes to the memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the sake of our independence.So, let all of us remember the spirit of the victory and see to establish just laws in the country to build it as a country which is rightly be called Sonar Bangla.

The sacrifice of those martyrs is a great inspiration for us. Their memory moves us with patriot feeling and inspires us to stand for the interest of our country.

December is a red letter month for the people of Bangladesh. The biggest fight for the people of a nation is the fight for independence. Salute to the brave army and people of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is a symbol of the immense victory of good against evil! It was a celebration of the right against wrong.Every fighter who sacrificed their life for the freedom of the country will forever stay at the heart of the people.

Independence brought with it a wave of economic freedom and greater opportunity to grow in the country. It is that month in the year when we take time to remember the real life heroes who gave us the life we are living today.

The struggle for freedom was long and gory for the people of Bangladesh. However, the moment they achieved it, there was a sigh of relief in the entire country.

Liberation war was bloody and disturbing but the after effects of the victory has been fulfilling for the people of Bangladesh.Freedom of Bangladesh is a common victory for all the people of country and they make sure that it is used perfectly.

Let us use the independence in the right manner as it comprises the hard earned tears and sweats of all the people of the nation who has been through the liberation war of 1971. Salute the flag as the red ball in the national flag of Bangladesh symbolises the power of the country and also the blood that has been shed by our soldiers to get freedom. Victory day of Bangladesh is part of the collective memory of country. The greatest battle fought and won by the nation and its people.

Let us take an oath that we will not misuse the freedom given to us by the country. We will make each of the freedom fighter proud with the way we use our independence. Independence of ours shall not cut the freedom of others. Co-exist and co-ordinate is the mantra of living.

Our freedom was possible due to the support of India. Our youth got trained and we got freedom through our youths. Victory day is a struggle to be at the depth of our heart forever.

The cruelty can only be defeated with grit and determination. Every warrior from Bangladesh was then determined to drive out the Pakistani enemies and live on their own terms. The nation faced its greatest crisis until finally the Victory Day arrived and the people of Bangladesh could finally smile.

On the morning of 16th December 1971, the sun did shine bright on the land of Bangladesh and the day was greeted with smile throughout the entire country.

Bangladesh is rich in culture and heritage. Pakistani rulers wanted to play with it and hence were thrown out of the country.The nation has had enough of enemies; let us not add to it by fighting amongst each other.

You cannot cage a wild bird and so you cannot cage Bangladesh. It is a country flying high with dreams and thriving to betterment every moment.We struggled our way to freedom and we are never going to easily let it away! The cries of pain yet reverberates the ears of the living. Our nation has a dark history and it teaches us to fight and stand for ourselves.

On the whole, war has always been the greatest blot on humanity. It was created by man himself but now it is beyond control of all human forces. Now it requires retrospection for the whole of human race to think over it for the sake of humanity, otherwise nothing will remain neither war nor humanity.

-The End –

The writer is a political observer based in Bangladesh who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.

Upcoming council may be savior from worst debacle

Sheikh Hasina as an experienced world leader has to start this new dimension of student politics which will make the leader in various sectors for developing the country as a part of the new globe.

by Swadesh Roy writing from Dhaka

The main political party and the ruling party of Bangladesh, Awami League, is enjoying the state power consecutively for eleven years. In a third world country, when a political party enjoysthe state power for a long time, some problems arise. In most of the cases, its party organization is affected by the dishonest and opportunist people. Even if it is a communist party, it also suffersfrom this kind of problems. As an example, West Bengal, a province of India was ruled by the communist alliance at least for three decades. But their ending was doleful, the party not only lost the election shamelessly but also their party structure was broken like a house of cards. Similarly, the Congress Party of India by the leadership of Sonia Gandhi enjoyed consecutive ten years of power. As a leader, Sonia Gandhi was honest and her nominated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also an honest person. Even, the son of Sonia Gandhi and the then General Secretary of All India Congress Party is also recognized as an honest person. But after the election of 2014, Congress could not achieve the status of the opposition party in the Indian Parliament. Same thing also happened after five years. The reason was also the affected party structure and corruption of party leaders.

No doubt, there are thousands of examples like this in the third world’s power politics. After entering in the consecutive third term within seven months, the President of Awami League and Prime Minister of Bangladesh has started to reconcile her party for protecting the normal fate of the third world’s long term power parties. She started refining her party organizations. At first, she changed the President and the Secretary of her student wing; they were alleged for bribery in a university development work. Last three or four decades, this type of bribery by the student leaders is a normal feature in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina is the leader who took the action against it and moved the wheel towards opposite direction to stop this unholy culture. When Sheikh Hasina started it, most of the people of Bangladesh thought that it was an incident; nobody could understand she was going to refine her party structure. In fact, within a week the main bulldozer of Sheikh Hasina appeared in all sister organizations of her party. The Elite Police arrested many of the leaders of her organization named Youth League. Simultaneously, she removed the party President of the Youth League and the President and Secretary of two other sister organizations named Secchasebok League (Volunteer League) and Krishok League (Farmer League).

Under these circumstances, she arranged the council of those three organizationswithin a month; which President and Secretary were named. She chose new leaders for those three sister organizations. She selected a western educated soft spoken and very honest professor for her youth organization that was appreciated very much in the society and among the youth. Social forum like Facebook and Twitter users appreciated the young leader with a high expectation. It proved that she has changed something which was expected by the new generation. Simultaneously, common students want a change in the student politics. They are not highly happy only with the removal of the President and Secretary of the student organization of the government party. It is high time for Bangladesh to change or start a new student politics. Bangladesh has a long and bright heritage of student politics. It was necessary for creating an independent country, Bangladesh, by overthrowing the military government for establishment of a democratic government. It was the time from 1960’s to 1990’s but in the 21th century, Bangladesh is very much a part of global village and all the college and university students are the citizen of this new globe. On the other hand, Bangladesh is now a middle income country. It is also a rising economy of Asia.

With this object,the students of Bangladesh want a modern politics which will help them to become the leaders of upcoming world. During 60’s to 90’s in Bangladesh, leaders meant political leaders. Now the scenario has totally changed. The country needs leaders in so many sectors such as Sports to Drama, Business Executive to Editor, and Entrepreneur to State Executive etc. So, the new student politics has to be more new dimensional. Sheikh Hasina as an experienced world leader has to start this new dimension of student politics which will make the leader in various sectors for developing the country as a part of the new globe.

Even that new drive of Sheikh Hasina for reconciling her party and wipe out corruption inside the party also appreciated by the common people. In fact, it is also applauded by the people who are not the supporter of her party. But they are very cautious and keenly observing at the end of it. Their opinion is that the sister organizations are also important but it depends on how Sheikh Hasina change her core party leadership from the grass root and centrally. Now, it is clear before the central council which will be held on 21-22 December, all the grassroot level council will not be completed in the entire country. It is one of the main failures of her party leadership and only some who are responsible for doing this. Besides this, some of the grassroot organization leaders are one of the main problems for tarnishing the image of her party because in their area they are the representative of Sheikh Hasina. The commongrassroots people see the real face through their faces. Basically, the mouse never can see a lion, it only sees cat. This time, not a cat, a lion is standing in front ofa mouse. So, these cats are damaging the role of the lion, Sheikh Hasina. For this reason, if Sheikh Hasina has to reveal or reconcile her party’s total image, she needs to reorganize her grassroots party leadership in many places around the country. On the other hand, Sheikh Hasina can think that she will reconstruct her party from the grassrootslevel by declaring new leadership and those will come through the central council which will be held on 20-21 December. It may be good for her because if she can bring clean image leadership through this council, they will do more efficiently and honestly for reconstructing the grassroots organization. Conversely, one kind of vested interest might grow with some present central and grassroots leaders.

Under the circumstances, the upcoming central council is the most important to Sheikh Hasina. For making a crystal clear party organization, deduction of the corrupt and opportunist leaders and choose or elect the educated, capable and honest leaders is the first and foremost priority.

In conclusion, after eleven years of consecutive power, this central council of Awami League is not only mandatory thing for their party constitution but also it is crucial to set up new honest leadership for Awami League and through this council saving them or the party from a future worst debacle.

Swadesh Roy, Senior Journalist, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a highest state award winning journalist and can be reached at

India: After 8-hour debate, Rajya Sabha passes controversial bill

Minister Shah said that neither citizenship bill, nor triple talaq bill nor bill scrapping Article 370 are anti-Muslim.

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the contentious Citizenship Bill after rejecting it to the select committee. The latest tally of votes being 117 votes in favour of the Bill and 92 against it.

Earlier in the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had tabled the bill saying that the bill provides 'hopes' for people who are not living with permanent residency in India.

Shah also attacked the Congress in Rajya Sabha, saying that the statements of Cong leaders and Pakistani leaders are the same.

He said that Rohingya would not be granted citizenship under the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as they did not come to India directly from Myanmar.

Replying to the debate on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Shah said that the Rohingyas first reached Bangladesh and then infiltrated into our country.

"It was asked that why were Rohingyas not included in the Bill? Rohingyas don't come to India directly. They go to Bangladesh and then infiltrate into India from there," he said.

He said that the Bill has been brought to rectify a historic blunder -- the partition -- and give a dignified life to non-Muslims of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who fled religious persecution and settled in India before December 31, 2014.

Shah said that the need to bring the Bill goes back to the partition and Pakistan's failure to protect its minorities.

"Despite Kabil Sibal and Anand Sharma's insistence, I would once again say that the partition happened on the basis of religion. It was a blunder, which forced me to introduce this Bill," he said.

Shah said, "There would have been no need to introduce this Bill. This Bill is to address the problem created by the partition.'' He further said that Muslims from other countries have right to apply for Indian citizenship and that it will be applicable in all states including West Bengal. ''No one will have to go to detention camp after passage of citizenship bill,'' he said.

Shah also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP government is not there to only run the country but also set things right. Shah also assured that govt is committed to preserving language, culture of Assam.

Replying to Congress MPs P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal's concerns, Shah said the Article 14 of the Constitution allows the Parliament to frame laws based on 'reasonable classification' which, he said, was in the Bill.

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday with a majority of 311 votes against 80 votes where 391 members were present and voting.

He further said that India can never be 'Muslim-mukt' (free from Muslims) while replying to a debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

Replying to a statement of Congress MP Kapil Sibal, Shah said that Muslims should not fear the Bill as it does not strip them of their citizenship.

The Home Minister further said that the proposed legislation is not against the interest of Muslims. "How can the CAB be anti-Muslim? In this Bill, there is no proposal to touch the citizenship of any Muslim," he said.

''Also, if any government would have solved the problem, there would have been no need for this Bill," he added.

In the 245-member Rajya Sabha, the halfway mark was 121 as five seats were vacant bringing down the strength of the House to 240.

(with inputs from PTI and ANI)

Fast facts about ICJ hearings on Myanmar

The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, a non-governmental organisation that works to promote and protect human rights through the rule of law, issued a briefing paper about the hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Myanmar’s Genocide case. Below are excerpts:

What allegations does Gambia make against Myanmar?

On November 11, the Republic of The Gambia filed an “Application Instituting Proceedings and Request for Provisional Measures” at the ICJ against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

Gambia said they have a “dispute” with Myanmar concerning Myanmar’s application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The definition of genocide found in Article II of the convention is set out in Annex 1.

Gambia said Myanmar had violated its obligations under the convention by:

• committing genocide,

• conspiracy to commit genocide,

• direct and public incitement to commit genocide,

• attempting to commit genocide,

• complicity in genocide,

• failing to prevent genocide,

• failing to punish genocide, and

• failing to enact the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the convention.

Specifically, Gambia alleged in paragraph 6 of its application that “…against the backdrop of longstanding persecution and discrimination, from around October 2016, the Myanmar military (the Tatmadaw) and other Myanmar security forces began widespread and systematic ‘clearance operations’ – the term that Myanmar itself uses – against the Rohingya group. The genocidal acts committed during these operations were intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the systematic destruction by fire of their villages, often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses. From August 2017 onwards, such genocidal acts continued with Myanmar’s resumption of ‘clearance operations’ on a more massive and wider geographical scale.”

Suu Kyi at ICJ 

Gambia said these facts are extensively documented by independent investigative efforts conducted under the auspices of the United Nations and corroborated by international human rights organisations and other credible sources. In particular, Gambia relies extensively on the reports of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

In paragraph 112 of its application, and with reference to specific articles of the convention, Gambia asked the ICJ to “adjudge and declare” that Myanmar:

• has breached and continues to breach its obligations under the convention,

• must cease forthwith any such ongoing internationally wrongful act and fully respect its obligations under the convention,

• must ensure that persons committing genocide are punished by a competent tribunal, including before an international penal tribunal,

• must perform the obligations of reparation in the interest of the victims of the genocidal acts who are members of the Rohingya group, including but not limited to allowing the safe and dignified return of forcibly displaced Rohingya and respect for their full citizenship and human rights and protection against discrimination, persecution, and other related acts, consistent with the obligation to prevent genocide, and

• must offer assurance and guarantees of non-repetition of violations of the convention.

This is what is known as the “merits” part of the case.

If the case proceeds, a significant amount of time may pass before final judgment of the merits.

What is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s role in the proceedings?

A state that is a party to a case before the ICJ nominates an agent who serves as the head of the diplomatic mission with power to legally commit a sovereign state.

They receive communications from the ICJ’s registrar concerning the case and forwards all correspondence and pleadings, duly signed or certified, to them.

In public hearings before the ICJ, the agent opens the argument on behalf of the government and lodges the submissions.

In general, when any formal act is to be done by the government represented, it is done by the agent.

They are always assisted by counsel or advocates appointed by the government to act on their behalf.

On November 24, the State Counsellor’s Office said in a statement that “a high-level briefing on recent developments on international arena with regard to Myanmar was held at the President Office.”

The statement noted that the “case concerns the high national interest of the entire country. Accordingly, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in her capacity as Union Minister of Foreign Affairs, will act as the Agent.”

In the Gambia’s Application, it also requested the Court to indicate provisional measures “in light of the nature of the rights at issue, as well as the ongoing, severe and irreparable harm being suffered by members of the Rohingya group.”

At paragraph 132 of The Gambia’s filing, it requested the Court to indicate five provisional measures.

It also reserved the right to request additional provisional measures during the proceedings, and as the Court has the power to indicate different provisional measures to those requested, any provisional measures finally indicated by the Court in the form of an order may differ from those listed in the Application.

Of significance is that The Gambia requested the Court to indicate a provisional measure whereby the parties shall each provide a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to the order for provisional measures, no later than four months from its issuance.

Finally, The Gambia requested the Court to address the issue of provisional measures as a “matter of extreme urgency.”

What are provisional measures?

Provisional measures are certain orders the Court can make aimed at preserving the rights of the Parties to a case pending the final decision of the court in order to avoid irreparable damage to the rights which are the subject of the dispute.

What factors are taken into account on a request for provisional measures?

Over time, the ICJ has established, including in the 19 May 2017 Order for provisional measures in the case of Jadhav, that it will take into account four requirements when deciding whether to indicate provisional measures:

1. prima facie jurisdiction

The Court may indicate provisional measures only if the provisions relied on by the applicant appear, prima facie, to provide a basis on which the Court’s jurisdiction could be founded – but the Court need not satisfy itself in a definitive manner that it has jurisdiction as regards to the merits of the case.

In its filing, The Gambia submitted that the Court has jurisdiction based on the UN Charter and Article IX of the Convention which states that disputes between Contracting Parties relating to the Convention shall be submitted to the ICJ.

The Court will want to be satisfied, prima facie, that the Convention confers jurisdiction on the Court, including whether a “dispute” exists between the parties.

2. plausibility

The object of the Court’s power to indicate provisional measures is the preservation of the respective rights claimed by the parties in a case pending final judgment on the merits.

The Court must therefore preserve the rights which may subsequently be adjudged by it to belong to either party – but only if it is satisfied that the rights asserted by the party requesting such measures are at least plausible.

In the present case, The Gambia submitted it seeks to protect the rights of all members of the Rohingya group who are in the territory of Myanmar, as members of a protected group under the Convention, noting that at this state of the proceedings “the Court does not need to establish definitively the existence of such rights; it is sufficient…that such rights are plausible, i.e., “grounded in a possible interpretation of the Convention.”

3. real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice

The Court has the power to indicate provisional measures when irreparable prejudice could be caused to rights, which are the subject of judicial proceedings.

But the Court will only indicate provisional measures if there is urgency, in the sense that there is real and imminent risk that irreparable prejudice will be caused to the rights in dispute before the Court gives its final decision.

The Gambia argues there is no doubt these requirements are satisfied in this case.

4. the link between the rights claimed on the merits and the provisional measures requested.

A link must exist between the rights whose protection is sought, and the provisional measures being requested.

If the Court indicates provisional measures, are they binding on the parties?

Article 94 of the UN Charter provides that judgments of the ICJ are binding on the parties to the dispute and that, if they are not implemented, then recourse is to be had to the Security Council, which may make recommendations or decide upon measures to be taken to give effect to the judgment.

Myanmar at ICJ: Aung San Suu Kyi’s illuminating speech

How can there be an ongoing genocide or genocidal intent when these concrete steps are being taken in Rakhine?

by Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has told the UN's top court that there was no proof of "genocidal intent" behind her country’s military campaign against Rohingya Muslims. Testimony on Tuesday alleged stunningly barbaric acts against the Rohingya population, including children and babies. Speaking at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Nobel peace laureate said it couldn't be ruled out that disproportionate force was used by Myanmar's armed forces. Here is the full text - Editors;

Thank you, Mr President and Members of the Court. It is an honour to appear as Agent of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar in these proceedings, in my capacity as Union Minister of Foreign Affairs. For materially less resourceful countries like Myanmar, the World Court is a vital refuge of international justice. We look to the Court to establish conditions conducive to respect for obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law, one of the fundamental objectives of the United Nations Charter.

In the present case, Mr President, the Court has been asked to apply the 1948 Genocide Convention, one of the most fundamental multilateral treaties of our time. Invoking the 1948 Genocide Convention is a matter of utmost gravity. This is the treaty that we made following the systematic killing of more than six million European Jews, and that my country wholeheartedly signed as early as December 30, 1949 and ratified on March 14, 1956. Genocide is the crime that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda applied in response to the mass-killing of perhaps 70 percent of the Tutsis in Rwanda. It is the crime that was not applied by the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to the displacement of approximately one million residents of Kosovo in 1999. Neither was it applied by that Tribunal nor by this Court when deciding upon the exodus of the Serb population from Croatia in 1995. In both situations international justice resisted the temptation to use this strongest of legal classifications because the requisite specific intent to physically destroy the targeted group in whole or in part was not present.

Regrettably, The Gambia has placed before the Court an incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar. Yet, it is of the utmost importance that the Court assess the situation obtaining on the ground in Rakhine dispassionately and accurately. The situation in Rakhine is complex and not easy to fathom. But one thing surely touches all of us equally: the sufferings of the many innocent people whose lives were torn apart as a consequence of the armed conflicts of 2016 and 2017, in particular those who have had to flee their homes and are now living in camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Mr President and Members of the Court, the troubles of Rakhine State and its population, whatever their background, go back into past centuries and have been particularly severe over the last few years. Currently, an internal armed conflict is going on there – between the Arakan Army, an organised Buddhist armed group with more than 5000 fighters, and the regular Myanmar Defence Services. None of the speakers yesterday made any reference to this. The Arakan Army seeks autonomy or independence for Rakhine – or Arakan as it was called – finding inspiration in the memory of the historic Kingdom of Arakan. This conflict has led to the displacement of thousands of civilians in Rakhine. Standard security restrictions – such as curfew and check-points – are in place at present in the conflict zone and affect the situation of civilians there, regardless of their background.

Mr President, on October 9, 2016, approximately 400 fighters of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – known as ARSA – launched simultaneous attacks on three police posts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships in northern Rakhine, near the border with Bangladesh. ARSA claimed responsibility for these attacks, which led to the death of nine police officers, more than 100 dead or missing civilians, and the theft of 68 guns and more than 10,000 rounds of am-munition. This was the start of an internal armed conflict between ARSA and Myanmar’s Defence Services which lasted until late 2017. The selective factual propositions contained in The Gambia’s Application actually concern this conflict.

In the months following the October 9, 2016 attacks, ARSA grew in strength in the Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships in northern Rakhine. It resorted to threats and intimidation against local villagers in order to gain support and allegiance, executing suspected informers. According to, among others, the International Crisis Group, ARSA received weapons- and explosives-training from Afghan and Pakistani militants.

In the early morning of August 25, 2017, several thousand ARSA fighters launched coordinated attacks on more than 30 police posts and villages, and an army base in northern Rakhine. Most of the attacks took place on the narrow Maungdaw plain, which is framed by densely forested hills to the east, and the border with Bangladesh to the west. Indications are that ARSA’s objective was to seize Maungdaw township.

It may aid the Court to briefly consider the historical significance of Maungdaw. When Britain made Burma a colonial entity separate from British India in 1937, the border between Burma and India was drawn along the river Naf, where we find today’s border between Bangladesh and Myanmar. The historical Kingdom of Arakan had extended much further to the north than the river Naf, including most of what is today Chittagong District in Bangladesh. Members of some Rakhine communities therefore felt that the border drawn by the British was too far south; others, that it was too far north. Myanmar has never challenged this border since independence in 1948.

Britain did not lose control over what is today Maungdaw township during World War II. From September 1942, a number of local Muslim families offered fighters to the British irregular V-Force set up to collect intelligence and to initially absorb any Japanese advance. Many Muslims gave their lives in combat against the Japanese in Rakhine. The sacrifices made by Muslim fighters motivated a call for the creation of an autonomous Muslim space in northern Rakhine, centred on Maungdaw. Whether or not this was encouraged by British officers, Britain rejected this call as soon as it had reoccupied Burma, before independence in 1948. The Muslim-Buddhist intercommunal violence of 1942 recurred in 1948 and several times after that. This cycle of violence has negatively affected life in northern Rakhine, making it the second poorest state in Myanmar.

Mr President and Members of the Court, may I go back to the situation in Rakhine on the morning of August 25, 2017. More than thirty police stations and villages, and one military base, had been attacked before sunrise in a highly coordinated fashion, by an organised armed group operating along a densely forested hill-range that provides ample opportunity to hide. Many of the ARSA fighters had been recruited from local villages in the weeks and months preceding the attack. Myanmar’s Defence Services responded to the attacks of ARSA fighters by the use of ground forces. There were armed incidents in more than 60 locations. The main clashes occurred in 12 places: In Min Gyi (Tola Toli) village, Chut Pyin village, Maung Nu village, Gutar Pyin village, Alai Than Kyaw village, Myin Lut village, Inn Din village, Chein Kharli (Koetan Kauk) village, Myo Thugyi ward, Kyauk Pandu village, wards of Maungdaw Town, and southern Maungdaw.

Mr President, allow me to clarify the use of the term “clearance operation” - “nae myay shin lin yeh” in Myanmar [language]. Its meaning has been distorted. As early as the 1950s, this term has been used during military operations against the Burma Communist Party in Bago Range. Since then, the military has used this expression in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations after attacks by insurgents or terrorists. In the Myanmar language, “nae myay shin lin yeh” – literally “clearing of locality” – simply means to clear an area of insurgents or terrorists.

It is still not easy to establish clear patterns of events in these 12 locations. Many ARSA fighters died. There may have been several hundred casualties in some of the 12 locations. There was some inter-communal violence. Buddhist and Hindu minority communities also feared for their security after the original ARSA attacks and many fled from their homes.

It may be worth noting that the use of air power in military operations was avoided as far as possible to minimise the risk of collateral damage. However, in one incident, in order to be able to extract a unit surrounded by hundreds of ARSA fighters, the use of a helicopter was required. There was shooting from the helicopter which resulted in fatalities, which may have included noncombatants.

Mr President, it cannot be ruled out that disproportionate force was used by members of the Defence Services in some cases in disregard of international humanitarian law, or that they did not distinguish clearly enough between ARSA fighters and civilians. There may also have been failures to prevent civilians from looting or destroying property after fighting or in abandoned villages. But these are determinations to be made in the due course of the criminal justice process, not by any individual in the Myanmar Government.

Please bear in mind this complex situation and the challenge to sovereignty and security in our country when you are assessing the intent of those who attempted to deal with the rebellion. Surely, under the circumstances, genocidal intent cannot be the only hypothesis.

Under its 2008 Constitution, Myanmar has a military justice system. Criminal cases against soldiers or officers for possible war crimes committed in Rakhine must be investigated and prosecuted by that system. On November 25, 2019, the Office of the Judge Advocate General announced the start of a court-martial for allegations linked to the Gutar Pyin village incident, one of the 12 main incidents referred to earlier. The Office also let it be known that there will be additional courts-martial if further incriminating evidence is brought by the Independent Commission of Enquiry. The ICOE is an independent special investigation procedure established for Rakhine allegations by the President of Myanmar, chaired by a former Deputy Foreign Minister from the Philippines, with three other members, including a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations from Japan.

On November 26, 2019, this Commission announced that it had taken about 1500 witness statements from all affected groups in Rakhine, and that it has interviewed 29 military personnel who were deployed to the affected townships in northern Rakhine during the military operations from August 25, 2017 to September 5, 2017, as well as 20 police personnel who were stationed at the police posts that were attacked on August 25, 2017. There is currently no other fact-finding body in the world that has garnered relevant first-hand information on what occurred in Rakhine in 2017 to the same extent as the Independent Commission of Enquiry and the Office of the Judge Advocate General in Myanmar.

This fact reinforces my sense that I should refrain from any action or statement that could undermine the integrity of these ongoing criminal justice processes in Myanmar. They must be allowed to run their course. It is never easy for armed forces to recognise self-interest in accountability for their members, and to implement a will to accountability through actual investigations and prosecutions. I respectfully invite the Members of the Court to consider for a moment the record of other countries. This is a common challenge, even in resource-rich countries.

Recent cases in the news headlines illustrate that even when military justice works, there can be reversals. This can also happen in Myanmar. As part of the overall efforts of the Myanmar Government to provide justice, a court-martial found that 10 Muslim men had been summarily executed in Inn Din village, one of the 12 locations of serious incidents referred to earlier. It sentenced four officers and three soldiers each to ten years in prison with hard labour. After serving a part of their sentences, they were given a military pardon. Many of us in Myanmar were unhappy with this pardon.

Other cases are undertaken without controversy. In the Mansi case, for example, a court-martial sat close to the location in Kachin State where three internally displaced civilians were killed. It sentenced six soldiers, each to 10 years in prison, in January 2018. Relatives of the victims and local civil society representatives were invited to the sentencing.

The Office of the Judge Advocate General in Myanmar is by our standards well-resourced, with more than 90 staff and a presence in all regional commands throughout the country. I am encouraged by the Gutar Pyin court-martial, and I expect the Office to continue its investigations and prosecutions based on reliable evidence collected in Rakhine and from persons who witnessed what happened there.

Can there be genocidal intent on the part of a state that actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes soldiers and officers who are accused of wrongdoing? Although the focus here is on members of the military, I can assure you that appropriate action will also be taken against civilian offenders, in line with due process. There will be no tolerance of human rights violations in the Rakhine, or elsewhere in Myanmar.

Mr President, there are those who wish to externalise accountability for alleged war crimes committed in Rakhine, almost automatically, without proper reflection. Some of the United Nations human rights mandates relied upon in the Application presented by The Gambia have even suggested that there cannot be accountability through Myanmar’s military justice system. This not only contradicts Article 20(b) of the Constitution of Myanmar, it undercuts painstaking domestic efforts relevant to the establishing of cooperation between the military and the civilian government in Myanmar, in the context of a Constitution that needs to be amended to complete the process of democratisation. That process is now underway at the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, the Union Parliament.

The emerging system of international criminal justice rests on the principle of complementarity. Accountability through domestic criminal justice is the norm. Only if domestic accountability fails, may international justice come into play. It would be inconsistent with complementarity to require that domestic criminal justice should proceed much faster than international criminal justice. A rush to externalise accountability may undermine professionals in domestic criminal justice agencies. What does the appearance of competition between domestic and international accountability do to the public’s trust in the intentions of impatient international actors?

No stone should be left unturned to make domestic accountability work. It would not be helpful for the international legal order if the impression takes hold that only resource-rich countries can conduct adequate domestic investigations and prosecutions, and that the domestic justice of countries still striving to cope with the burden of unhappy legacies and present challenges is not good enough. The Gambia will also understand this challenge with which they too are confronted.

Mr President and Members of the Court, these reflections are relevant to the present hearing because the Applicant has brought a case based on the Genocide Convention. We are, however, dealing with an internal armed conflict, started by coordinated and comprehensive attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, to which Myanmar’s Defence Services responded. Tragically, this armed conflict led to the exodus of several hundred thousand Muslims from the three northernmost townships of Rakhine into Bangladesh – just as the armed conflict in Croatia with which the Court had to deal led to the massive exodus of, first, ethnic Croats and later, ethnic Serbs.

As I have already stated, if war crimes have been committed by members of Myanmar’s Defence Services, they will be prosecuted through our military justice system, in accordance with Myanmar’s Constitution. It is a matter for the competent criminal justice authorities to assess whether, for example, there has been inadequate distinction between civilians and ARSA fighters, disproportionate use of force, violations of human rights, failure to prevent plundering or property destruction, or acts of forcible displacement of civilians. Such conduct, if proven, could be relevant under international humanitarian law or human rights conventions, but not under the 1948 Genocide Convention for reasons Professor William Schabas will elaborate in a moment.

Mr President, allow me to share one further reflection in this Great Hall of Justice. International law may well be our only global value system, and international justice a practice that affirms our common values. Leaders of States and relevant inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations should also be cognisant of their responsibility to express and affirm fundamental values. Feeding the flames of an extreme polarisation in the context of Rakhine, for example, can harm the values of peace and harmony in Myanmar. Aggravating the wounds of conflict can undermine unity in Rakhine. Hate narratives are not simply confined to hate speech – language that contributes to extreme polarisation also amounts to hate narratives.

Several international actors face a challenge here. But Myanmar could also have done more since the 1980s to emphasise the shared heritage and deeper layers of unity among the diverse peoples of our country. Cycles of inter-communal violence in Rakhine going back to the 1940s should be countered not just by practical measures aimed at sustainable development and rule of law, but also by nourishing a spiritual mindset of unity. It is a moral responsibility of leaders to guard the aspirations of people for harmony and peace.

U Thant, the third United Nations Secretary-General, had understood this. He wrote in his memoirs View From the UN published in 1974: “I even believe that the mark of the truly educated and imaginative person facing the twenty-first century is that he feels himself to be a planetary citizen” (p. 454). Encouraging this added layer of identity – a sense of planetary citizenship – is of fundamental importance for peaceful relations between nations as well as ethnic and religious groups.

A commitment to broadening the mindset must go hand in hand with practical steps to improve lives. Even before the events of 2016-2017, Muslim, Buddhist and other communities in Rakhine faced what the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission described as complex challenges of low development and poverty rooted in enduring social conflict between the communities. The Myanmar government is committed to addressing these challenges. Together with our partners, we are now striving to ensure that all communities enjoy the same fundamental rights. To expedite citizenship verification and application, a mobile team is already in operation. All children born in Rakhine, regardless of religious background, are issued with birth certificates. Arrangements have been made to enable more Muslim youth to attend classes at universities across Myanmar. With the support of international and local partners, scholarships will also be made available to students from all communities living in Rakhine. The government has started a social cohesion model project in Maungdaw township, to promote social harmony among all communities. Inter-faith fora have been encouraged. These are some of the steps taken to improve livelihoods, security, access to education and health, citizenship, and social cohesion for all communities in Rakhine. Three IDP camps have already been closed, and an IDP-camp closure strategy has been adopted. Myanmar is also committed to voluntary, safe and dignified repatriation of displaced persons from Rakhine under the framework agreement reached between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Mr President, how can there be an ongoing genocide or genocidal intent when these concrete steps are being taken in Rakhine?

To conclude, Mr President and Members of the Court, Rakhine today suffers an internal armed conflict between the Buddhist Arakan Army and Myanmar’s Defence Services. Muslims are not a party to this conflict, but may, like other civilians in the conflict area, be affected by security measures that are in place. We pray the Court to refrain from taking any action that might aggravate the ongoing armed conflict and peace and security in Rakhine. Right now, in northern Rakhine an army base near Paletwa is under attack by a group of more than 400 Arakan Army fighters, and some 200 insurgents have surrounded a military column near Ann City in Rakhine.

Since Myanmar gained independence in 1948, our people have not known the security of sustainable development that is the fruit of peace and prosperity. Our greatest challenge is to address the roots of distrust and fear, prejudice and hate, that undermine the foundations of our Union. We shall adhere steadfastly to our commitment to non-violence, human rights, national reconciliation and rule of law, as we go forward to build the Democratic Federal Union to which our people have aspired for generations past. We look to justice as a champion of the reconciliation and harmony that will assure the security and rights of all peoples.

Mr President and Members of the Court, I thank you for your kind attention and ask that you now call upon Professor William Schabas to continue the Myanmar submissions.

How To End Rapism In India?

The solution is not just more policing and fast track court judgments. It is certainly not encounter killing of the rapists. Since the problem is in our anti-women abusive culture, we must think of man-woman equal rights culture at home and in the public domain.

by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

The culture of raping women both for personal gratification of persons involved or as a weapon of oppression is killing the public morale of the nation within and globally. The brutal gang rape of Disha at Hyderabd on 27 November, 2019 re-enacted the worst case of Nirbhaya in Delhi seven years ago. In Delhi it was a gruesome killing of the victim within the bus and in Hyderabad it was a brutal burning of her almost alive in open field, after gruesome gang rape . These are only most protested and sensationalized cases but similar cases are happening in many parts of the country. In Disha case the rapists were shot dead. Nirbhaya murderers are still awaiting the hanging. There are many such gang rapes which do not even get media attention.

The news of raping small kids on daily basis is also killing our public sensibilities making the nation think that this is one more bad news and leave at that. Teachers raping their own students in the schools, religious preachers raping their followers is yet another aspect which makes our educational and spiritual institutions fearsome places.

Gang rapes and murder of the victims indicates that it is not lack of self control of an individual and aggrandizing any woman on whom the he could lay hands. It is an expression of cultural brutalization of several layers of our society, the roots of which are in the present family, school, religious structures and civil society, as the gang rapists come from different families, castes and so on. Even our universities are not out of this kind of barbaric rapism. I call it rapism because it has become a social ideological trend, particularly in India.

From village to city, from family to school, college, temple, Masjid, church we must re-think about our man-woman relationship and launch a massive cultural campaign leaving no religion, no school or no family to itself. This disease is presenting itself as ‘Indian’ hence we must tackle it as Indians with a new vision. Both men and women should be fully involved in this cultural campaign of rape free India.

Caste system and dehumanized patriarchal relations brutalized the Indian man-woman relations in a manner that no other society in the world got brutalized. The issue has to be tackled holistically but not just case by case.

If we start from our village family system move upwards into the towns and cities our families use a lot of abusive language at home. Most of the abuses are women centrist. This language certainly gets internalized from childhood stage as father, mother and grand parents use very abusive language as common acceptable idiom. This passes on from generation to generation.

In our society the so called manhood is defined by the amount of control and abusive power that a man has over the women. A man who treats a woman as his equal in everyday life is treated as impotent. This is a very barbaric cultural notion but it is very prevalent. We must fight it out.

Our books are more around romance and sex than around production, science, nature and co-operative man-woman relations. The schools, colleges feed anti-women cultural idiom as an extended language from home to school.

Our police stations are known for using very abusive language and our cinemas are full of violence and sex both rapist and consented. No cinema without vulgar sex and violence can run in the theater for a day. Both the mind of viewer and the producer and the actor is geared to negative sex of violence or heroic physical violence, which is again very brutalizing. All this goes against women.

Rapism of human beings in India or anywhere does not even match the behavior of female and male animal sexul engagement practices. Among animals and birds without the consent of the female the male cannot indulge in forceful sex. The Indians need to be taught of animal behavioral science more and more as the cultural man-woman oppressive relationship is worse than even than that of animals. Of course, the Indian kind of rapism of men does not match with that of other societies. Because gang rapes and killings are very rare in any other society, except in war situations.

In normal situations any personal touch of a female body by a male person her consent is a precondition. In India by and large that is not considered necessary. This is a big challenge to our family and education system. We must admit this weakness of the society and nation and think of a civilizational shift.

The solution is not just more policing and fast track court judgments. It is certainly not encounter killing of the rapists. Since the problem is in our anti-women abusive culture, we must think of man-woman equal rights culture at home and in the public domain. That involves developing a culture of zero tolerance of abuse of women at home, in the field of agrarian or industrial production places or in the school, college or office, even verbally. In every home language has to be monitored by neighbors and any use of abusive language at home and outside should be condemned and shamed.

By and large we have overcome woman or wife beating even in villages with such social shaming and women assertion. Not that no woman beating within the family or outside takes place. However, rampant woman beating has come down. Similarly woman abuse, rape and murder will come down and over a period of time will stop provided we inject a culture of deep respect for women at every place.

Family, school, religious institutions and market places must adopt a cultural practice that woman and man are equal and their self respect needs to be kept up. The school plays a more critical role than any other institution. Our syllabus component about dignity of woman and dignity of labour must increase enormously. If we do not teach children in the schools that woman’s labour and creativity is foundation of advancement and development of the nation we will suffer such maladies more and more in future.

Let us start a cultural revolution for man-woman equality and the first step is opening up a discussion on this issue everywhere–at home, in the school, college, temple, masque, church, office and in the shops.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a Political Theorist, Social Activist and Author