You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Bangladesh’ tag.
Part 6 in a series by Marissa Goldfaden as she works her way through “Introduction to minority rights, regional human rights mechanisms, and minority rights advocacy,” a new online course offered to the public free of charge by Minority Rights Group International. The course’s stated objectives are to introduce concepts of minority rights and discrimination, develop awareness and understanding of international and regional mechanisms for minority rights, and improve practical skills in lobbying and advocacy.
Asian human rights mechanisms
The workings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Founded in 1967, ASEAN is currently comprised of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Timor Leste has observer status. The purpose of ASEAN is to boost economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region; and promote regional peace and stability through respect for justice and the rule of law, and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter. In 2007, ASEAN adopted its own charter.
Decision-making within ASEAN
|Secretariat||Implements policy decisions; draws up ‘plans of action’ in collaboration with Senior Officials|
|Ministerial meetings||Amend and endorse plans of action drawn up by the Secretariat|
|ASEAN Summit||The highest decision-making body: gives final approval to plans of action|
In terms of rights, ASEAN Vision 2020 seeks to create an ASEAN Community by 2020 where “all people enjoy equitable access regardless of gender, race, religion, language or social and cultural background; where civil society is empowered and gives special attention to the disadvantaged, disabled and marginalized; where social justice and the rule of law reign.”
The ASEAN Community is composed of three pillars of cooperation:
- ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC)
- ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)
- ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC)
Asia-Pacific does not have a regional system of treaties, courts, commissions or other institutions to protect and promote human rights. As such, the organization has recently established the following three relevant mechanisms:
- ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)
- Though it does not explicitly mention minorities, principle 2.2 of the AICHR’s Terms of Reference underlines respect for non-discrimination.
- ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC)
- Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of Migrant Workers (ACMW)
ASEAN has also adopted its own declarations relating to women:
- Declaration on the Advancement of Women in ASEAN (1988)
- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the ASEAN Region (2004)
- ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children (2004)
Established in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)’s main goal is to jointly promote social and economic development in Asia. Its current member countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan.
Created in January 2004, the Technical Committee on Women, Youth and Children is concerned with issues such as the trafficking of women and children within and between countries in the region; increasing women’s participation in politics; and women’s health and education. SAARC adopted a regional Convention on Combating the Crime of Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution in January 2002.
Established in 2004, the SAARC Social Charter “incorporates a broad range of goals in areas such as poverty eradication, population stabilization, women’s empowerment, promotion of health and nutrition, and child protection. It also requires member states to formulate a National Plan of Action, or modify any existing one, to implement the provisions of the Charter. It calls on states to enact any plan through a transparent and broad-based participatory process.”
The SAARC Charter does not list promotion of human rights as a goal. SAARC has not adopted any human rights convention or charter. It has not agreed to create any regional institution or mechanism to monitor adherence to, and implementation of, the various UN human rights conventions already signed by its member countries.
In their article, How Mass Atrocities End: An Evidence-Based Counter-Narrative, Alex de Waal, Jens Meierhenrich, and Bridget Conley-Zilkic examine the narrative frameworks that inform today’s agenda of “protection of civilians” in conflict:
1. A teleological assumption that the occurrence of attacks against civilians will, unless halted or deterred from outside, inevitably escalate towards genocide.
2. An epistemological assumption that privileges coercive military operations conducted on humanitarian grounds by international forces.
3. An ethical imperative based on the above teleology and epistemology that forecloses the historical and political discussions of how mass atrocities actually end.
Using comparative evidence from a variety of cases, beginning with the Holocaust and continuing through Libya, they then provide “a counter narrative to the dominant civilian protection agenda by returning to the historical record of how mass atrocities end.”
As to the first point, Jens Meierhenrich (pictured above) has put forth a general framework for studying genocide termination that contests this teleology. He argues for separating genocidal acts, campaigns, and regimes to better distinguish between different endings and, significantly, how each informs different policy options. In addressing the aforementioned epistemological assumption, the authors divide the ending of mass atrocities into five categories: 1) violence halted by the perpetrators once goals are met; 2) elite dissension or exhaustion within the perpetrator regime; 3) victims of violence flee or otherwise resist; 4) interventions waged by interested outside parties; or 5) humanitarian intervention.
Finally, questioning the ethical imperative, the authors relate a question that they deem to have been inadequately engaged by policy experts and researchers alike: How does one recognize when genocide or mass atrocities end? As they explain, “This question, let alone the equally, if not more complicated, question of how such violence ends has been caught up in the normative assumption about how they ought to end.”
While an optimal ending of mass atrocities is outlined as one in which vulnerable civilians are rescued, perpetrators are punished, and the state is justly reconstructed to address the conditions that enabled violence to occur, actual endings can rarely be described as optimal. But it is important to pay attention to what forces have played a tangible role in ending violence in order to garner a better understanding of how to interact with complex situations, what tools might achieve which exact goals, and a realistic expectation in terms of ending mass atrocities when this objective is obscured by competing agendas.
The authors describe some endings as being “the successful completion of a genocidal campaign, called off when the perpetrator regime is consolidated or when the political landscape alters such that the political rationale for mass violence against civilians is reduced. Other endings occur when the genocidal regime is removed from power, through successful resistance or invasion, or is fought to a standstill . . . Some endings are simply respite—a gap between genocidal campaigns conducted by a regime with an intact apparatus of mass violence.”
The article concludes by contending that the current undertaking of preventing genocide seeks to go beyond this singular aim to decisively resolve conflict and achieve transitional justice. Instead of the sole and default response of establishing a new regime “with ethical credentials commensurate with the horror that preceded it,” the authors’ approach “[. . .] eschews arguing from ‘ought’ to ‘is,’ and instead addresses the complexities of real politics and develops a rich comparative evidence base.” It seeks practical responses in the details of particular circumstances as opposed to deriving analysis and policy from universals that stem from moral impulses. Ultimately, such an approach should result in more effective prevention policymaking and reactions.
* Yesterday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted former Rwandan mayor Gregoire Ndahimana of genocide and crimes against humanity, sentencing him to 15 years in prison. Ndahimana was convicted of the killings at Nyange parish, which was bulldozed while 2,000 Tutsis hid inside during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, by virtue of his “command responsibility.” In April 2001, an indictment was issued against Ndahimana, who was found hiding in Congo in 2009.
* In Bangladesh, five men in charge of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s Islamist party, are facing charges of crimes against humanity, which carry the death penalty. The trial is being held under a version of the country’s International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973, wherein government investigators have wide-ranging rights to detain and question, while suspects lack the usual rights to information and legal advice. Recently, there have been reports of defense lawyers and witnesses being harassed. Further developments, as outlined by Human Rights Watch, include the arrest of one key defense witness and the preparation of criminal charges against nine more. Furthermore, media reports are admitted with no forensic scrutiny. Lastly, the court has rejected a petition of recusal against its own chairman, who had been involved in a contentious inquiry into Jamaat’s alleged liability for atrocities.
* The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has ruled that 79-year-old Ieng Thirith, former Social Affairs Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea, is unfit to stand trial and ordered her unconditional release. Thirith was on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity along with her husband and other former leaders of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime.
* A Guatemalan court put out an arrest warrant on Wednesday for former president Oscar Mejia, who now faces charges of genocide. Mejia is accused of ordering massacres in an indigenous region of the country when he served as chief of the military in 1982-1983, before leading a military coup and serving as president between 1983 and 1986. After a police raid in Guatemala City did not turn up Mejia, the Attorney General’s office declared him a fugitive. Meanwhile, former General Mauricio Rodriguez has been sent to prison for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity; General Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes, the first former military arrested in this case in June, could also stand trial on genocide charges.
* Bangladesh State minister for law Qamrul Islam says the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), formed to try war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s 1971 Liberation War, will be exemplary for the international community. In addition to being independent and neutral, Islam says the proceedings will be unique in that they will have an appeals process. The United States supports the initiative, which has garnered praise from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
* Last month, eight students in the Command and General Staff College Intermediate Level Education class 2011-02 visited Poland as part of a class, “Genocide and the Military Role: Identification, Prevention, and Intervention.” Offered by the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, and Jagiellonian University at Krakow, the course teaches students not only about genocide committed during World War II, but also about genocide in the years since, such as in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Sierra Leone. The course aims to enable Army officers to identify societies on the verge of mass atrocities and find ways to prevent them.
Syria: Draft Resolution in Security Council
On Wednesday, France, Britain, Portugal, and Germany submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council condemning the actions by the Syrian government against civilian protesters. Explicitly referring to the Syrian authorities’ responsibility to protect its civilian population and suggesting that the violent measures may constitute crimes against humanity, the draft resolution called for an end to the violence, the enactment of political reforms and an investigation of the situation in full cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The resolution also urged other states stop and prevent sales of arms and related supplies to Syria. Discussion on the draft resolution is to begin on Thursday with a vote taking place in several days. While the draft resolution has the support of as many as 11 of the 15 members of the Security Council including the United States, Russia and China have expressed strong reservations against it, leaving open the possibility of a veto.
The draft resolution follows last Thursday’s warning from Special Advisers of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, and Human Rights Watch’s report regarding the situation in Syria. Deng and Luck expressed alarm at the attack on the civilians, called for “an independent, thorough, and objective investigation,” and urged the Syrian government to cooperate with the inquiry and “to refrain from further attacks against the civilian population.” The Human Rights Watch report, in addition to detailing what it considered to be “crimes against humanity,” went further, recommending that the UN Security Council not only condemn the human rights violations, but also refer the violations to the International Criminal Court and adopting sanctions against Syrian officials if necessary.
Kyrgyzstan: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Reports
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International each issued new reports on the Kyrgyz government’s investigation into last year’s ethnic violence. As a result of the violence between the Kyrgyz and the minority Uzbeks, nearly 500, mostly Uzbeks, were killed, and 400,000 fled their homes. The Amnesty International report, which alleges that some of the atrocities against the Uzbeks may have constituted crimes against humanity, argued that the government did not fully investigate the violence perpetrated by the ethnic Kyrgyz and possibly even the security forces against the ethnic Uzbeks. Human Rights Watch detailed allegations of torture, as well as ethnic bias against Uzbeks during the trials following the investigation. Furthermore, the organizations expressed concerns that the government’s inadequate investigations may lead to future unrest between the two ethnic groups.
Bangladesh: War Crimes Tribunal
Bangladesh has been instituting a war crimes tribunal relating to its 1971 independence war against Pakistan. One to three million, mostly civilians, are estimated to have been killed, and approximately 300,000 women were raped. The tribunal, which is investigating the participation of Bengalis in the atrocities, is significant as it raises questions on whether accused war criminals should be tried in an international court or in a domestic tribunal, and whether countries without advanced legal systems have the capacity to properly deliver justice. The tribunal, charged with prosecuting genocide and crimes against humanity, is also important because it will be considering sexual violence as evidence in its decision-making. The court’s independence and fairness has been a point of contention, with Human Rights Watch, the International Bar Association, and the International Centre for Transitional Justice all expressing concern over several aspects of the proposed legal proceedings. It remains to be seen whether the tribunal can proceed free from political pressure and according to international judicial standards.