Cadman moves ICC to investigate Hasina govt

British lawyer Toby Cadman has said his petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for investigating the Sheikh Hasina government may soon be accepted.

Quazi Shahreen Haqbdnews24.com
Published : 15 Feb 2014, 02:59 PM
Updated : 15 Feb 2014, 04:36 PM

The foreign lawyer for top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders standing war crimes trial on Feb 4 submitted a petition to ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

He had pleaded for starting investigation against the government and the ruling Awami League on alleged crimes against humanity for persecuting its political foes.

He told bdnews24.com in an email interview that he had a series of meetings about the petition with the prosecutor's staff and other ICC personnel on Feb 4 and 5.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, however, said that there were no legal scopes to file such a petition.

The petition alleged that Awami League had over the last year used the law-enforcing agencies to crack down on the Opposition. It alleged that the media had failed to properly document the incidents of murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance over the period.

The counsel who specialises in war crimes and human rights law filed the petition on behalf of the International Coalition for Freedoms of Rights, a Europe-based organisation comprising international human rights lawyers from around the world.

He further said the government had shown no interest in launching an independent inquiry into the incidents. He claimed the petitioners had found substantial evidence in the matter and they would be presented to the ICC.

“The supporting evidence will be provided to the prosecutor over the coming weeks and she will make a decision on whether to open a preliminary inquiry,” he said, speaking to bdnews24.com.

The petition focused on three separate time frames: Feb 28, 2013 onwards, May 5-6, 2013 and from Dec 24, 2013 onwards to the 10th national election.

He claimed the ICC had contacted the Prime Minister’s Office and the foreign ministry about the issues but there had been no response.

Asked whether the incidents of persecution were in fact happening or could it be a political statement to keep the government under pressure, he replied that the petition was based on ‘detailed credible allegations’ of murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance.

“It is alleged that such conduct is part of a state policy and that the incidents are sufficiently widespread or systematic to engage state responsibility,” he said.

Cadman denied this was a political stunt to put the government under pressure.

“On 11 December 2013 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reminded the authorities in Bangladesh that as a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC its actions fell within the jurisdiction of the ICC and its political leaders, whether in government or opposition, could be charged with election violence,” he said in the emailed reply.

The Jamaat-appointed lawyer claimed the information obtained was sufficient to raise allegations against the government.

The ICC was taking the allegations seriously and the prosecutor would exercise her discretion to determine whether the allegations were sufficient to warrant an investigation, he added.

“I am confident that she will act positively on this matter. As regards who will be the target of the investigations that is a matter for the prosecutor to determine,” he said.

He said the state-sponsored election violence in the Ivory Coast was now before the ICC.

Asked why he decided to make such move, Cadman said he was a member of the ICFR and selected due to “my knowledge of Bangladesh and I brought in my colleagues already involved in the war crimes trials”.

”I am interested as I am concerned by the level of crimes committed by organs of the State against the civilian population.”

Cadman continued that the crimes documented in the communication were not just against members of the opposition. “There is the 5-6 May incident, crimes committed against minorities and numerous disappearances.”

“I am aware of at least one other communication filed by lawyers connected to the opposition, but I am not involved with them.”

“Our communication is by no means the first communication and I doubt it will be the last. The ICC Prosecutor is quite aware of the situation and her office is already monitoring the situation,” he further said.

“We have taken information from a variety of sources including victims, family members, NGO reports, open source material. I am not able to disclose names of individuals and organisations as I do not want to put them at risk of reprisals,” he added.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher