On 17 April 2018, Channel 4 News published a video of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) Summit that is currently taking place in London. The extract of the programme featured Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, speaking at a conference hosted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), avoiding comment on allegations made by numerous NGOs regarding her Government’s suppression of human rights in Bangladesh. Despite the amount of blatant evidence regarding the existence of widespread human rights violations in the country, denial and silence has been the on-going policy of the Awami League-led government, thus allowing for the unaccountability of these crimes. In 2017 Senator Patrick Leahy appropriately described the situation of Bangladesh as one of “state-sponsored criminality”.
In an effort to rectify the long-term impunity of the institutions involved, and in hopes that the ICC Prosecutor will open a preliminary examination into the situation in Bangladesh, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers submitted today, 20 April 2018, an Article 15 Communication to the ICC Prosecutor exposing international crimes committed in Bangladesh. The success of this submission is critical given the forthcoming elections, where one can anticipate that protests and criticisms against the incumbent government will be met with a brutal and violent crackdown, as was experienced in the previous electoral period of 2013 and 2014 in Bangladesh where hundreds were killed and thousands injured.
The complaint, a third submission to the ICC Prosecutor, sets out the need for an ICC investigation due to the failure of Bangladeshi prosecutorial and judicial institutions to lead impartial investigations and prosecutions domestically against those responsible for the systematic attack against the civilian population, more particularly, against members of the political opposition and individuals openly-critical of the Government. The existence and continuation of a pattern of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, deportations, persecution on political grounds, imprisonment and other inhumane acts, in the last four years, is indicative of a systematic attack, as part of a State policy, that has deteriorated demonstrably since our previous submission. These methodical crimes committed through state machinery, including the police force, the RAB, the BGB and the judiciary, have been part of a State policy to neutralize political dissidents and install an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that has shrunk the space for civil society. These acts constitute crimes against humanity, of which Bangladeshi institutions should be held responsible.