Dhaka, Mar 28 (UNB) - Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and Fortify Rights find “reasonable grounds” to believe that a human-trafficking syndicate committed “crimes against humanity” in Malaysia and Thailand against Rohingya men, women, and children from 2012 to 2015.
From 2012 to 2015, more than 170,000 people boarded ships from Myanmar and Bangladesh bound for Malaysia and Thailand, according to the new joint report released in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
The majority of people trafficked during this period were Rohingya Muslims, it said adding that in late 2014 and 2015, traffickers also began to target Bangladeshi nationals as well.
The trade in Rohingya from 2012 to 2015 is estimated to have generated between US$50 to US$100 million (174.5 to 349 million Malaysian Ringgit) annually.
The 121-page report follows the government of Malaysia’s recent creation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate human trafficking and mass graves—believed to contain the bodies of trafficked Rohingya and Bangladeshis—discovered in Wang Kelian, Perlis State in 2015.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry is expected to submit its final report in June.
“The victims of these crimes and their families suffered tremendously, and these horrific crimes should never happen again in Malaysia and anywhere else for that matter,” said SUHAKAM Commissioner Jerald Joseph.
“This report provides new evidence that we hope will help ensure justice for victims, accountability for perpetrators, and policy changes to strengthen the Malaysian and regional response to human trafficking.”
The report titled “Sold Like Fish,” is based on a multi-year joint investigation including more than 270 interviews with eyewitnesses, survivors, human traffickers, government officials, and others from 2013 to 2019.
It documented the crimes of human traffickers against Rohingya refugee women, men, and children at sea and in human-trafficking camps in Malaysia and Thailand.
The report also documented how Malaysian authorities destroyed the human-trafficking campsite in Wang Kelian the day after it was discovered, potentially diminishing evidence that could have aided a police investigation.
The four-month delay in exhuming bodies delayed post-mortem examinations and, in turn, hampered forensic specialists from identifying the cause of death of exhumed remains.
These and other factors may constitute obstruction of justice, said SUHAKAM and Fortify Rights.
The joint report focuses on crimes committed against Rohingya refugees from 2012 to 2015.
While international crimes against Rohingya have been well-documented in Myanmar, “Sold Like Fish” is the first report to document international crimes perpetrated against Rohingya outside Myanmar.
For the investigation, SUHAKAM visited Wang Kelian, Perlis State, Rohingya communities in Alor Setar, Kedah State and the Belantik immigration detention center in Kedah State, where the authorities detained survivors from the Wang Kelian camp.
Fortify Rights visited internment camps in Myanmar, refugee camps in Bangladesh, immigration detention centers and government-run shelters in Thailand, refugee camps in Indonesia, and refugee communities in Thailand, Malaysia, and Bangladesh.
On April 30, 2015, Thailand authorities announced they discovered more than 30 bodies in a mass grave in a makeshift camp near the Malaysian border, believed to be Rohingya and Bangladeshi victims of human trafficking.
On May 25, 2015, the Royal Malaysian Police announced the discovery of 139 graves and 28 suspected human-trafficking camps in Wang Kelian, Perlis State, Malaysia.
In 2017, Thailand convicted 62 defendants, including nine Thai government officials, for crimes related to the trafficking of Rohingya and Bangladeshis to Malaysia via Thailand.
Since 2015, Malaysian courts convicted only four non-Malaysian persons of trafficking-related offenses connected to the mass graves discovered at Wang Kelian.
The report included details into government complicity and involvement beyond the evidence exposed in the 2017 conclusions of Thailand’s mass human-trafficking trial.
Further investigation is required to determine the extent of responsibility and involvement of Malaysian authorities in the trafficking of Rohingya and Bangladeshis from 2012 to 2015, said SUHAKAM and Fortify Rights.
“Sold Like Fish” evaluates the criminal dimensions of the violence against Rohingya at sea and in Malaysia and Thailand under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)—which the Government of Malaysia acceded to on March 4, 2019—as well as international jurisprudence.
Under Article 7 of the Rome Statute, a crime against humanity is committed when one or more prohibited criminal acts are “committed as a part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”
An “attack” in the context of crimes against humanity need not involve armed conflict and can occur during peacetime.
In their investigation, SUHAKAM and Fortify Rights found reasonable grounds to believe that a transnational criminal syndicate committed murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation or forcible transfer, imprisonment, torture, and rape, as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against Rohingya civilians from Myanmar, and they did so with knowledge of the widespread and systematic attack underway.
Survivors of these attacks in Malaysia deserve protection under Malaysian law as survivors of human trafficking, and, in the case of Rohingya, protection as refugees, said SUHAKAM and Fortify Rights.
The report encouraged the Royal Commission of Inquiry to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the human trafficking, deaths, mass graves, and law enforcement response to the mass graves at Wang Kelian and human trafficking of men, women, and children to Malaysia from 2012 to 2015.
Where possible, SUHAKAM and Fortify Rights recommend the Royal Commission of Inquiry identify those believed to be responsible for these crimes and to seek criminal prosecutions in Malaysia as well as individual accountability measures beyond criminal prosecutions.
Malaysia should hold to account all those responsible for committing crimes against humanity through fair and impartial trials conducted in line with international human rights law, the organizations said.
In July 2018, Fortify Rights documented how Myanmar authorities made “extensive and systematic” preparations for attacks against Rohingya Muslims that constituted the crime of genocide.
However, the government of Myanmar continues to deny any wrongdoing.
Dhaka, Mar 27 (UNB) - Bangladesh has expressed its deep concern over the recent announcement of the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
"This is a clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations, principles of international law and relevant Security Council Resolutions," said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Wednesday.
It said Bangladesh has always urged the occupying State of Israel to immediately halt its actions to alter legal, physical and demographic status of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights in accordance with the Security Council Resolution 497.
"Bangladesh believes that changing the status of occupied Syrian Golan Heights by the US bypassing the Security Council is a direct violation of the UN decisions," the statement reads.
Bangladesh said it maintains its principled position on a comprehensive solution to the Middle-East question in accordance with the relevant Security Council Resolutions, the Arab peace initiative and the quartet roadmap.
Dhaka, Mar 27 (UNB) - Bangladeshi television channels will be available in its 78 missions abroad paving the way for Bangladesh citizens and foreigners to watch those channels.
The government has introduced "STP Boxes" for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) in the missions in this regard.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen along with Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud jointly inaugurated the ‘Demonstration and Introduction of STP (Set-Top) Boxes for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)’ at the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
Diplomat, only diplomatic affairs magazine in the country, is providing the boxes in association with the ministry.
Primarily, around 200 STP boxes will be installed in 78 foreign missions abroad. Only Bangladeshi television channels will be available in an STP box.
"Digital Bangladesh is no more a dream, rather it's a reality today," said the Information Minister mentioning the expansion of media outlets in all forms and people's access to information through technological advancement in the country.
He said Bangladeshi nationals and foreigners who visit Bangladesh missions abroad for various tasks, including visa-related issues, will be able to watch Bangladeshi channels. "This is a very good initiative."
The Information Minister, however, suggested keeping few international news channels for foreigners as the programme is set in a way so that only Bangladeshi channels can be watched.
“We’ll send around 200 set top boxes for 78 mission as some missions will need to have around 3-4 set top boxes,” said the foreign minister.
People there in the missions are not able to watch Bangladeshi channels. Even, missions have to prepare special arrangement during a VVIP visit for showing Bangladeshi channels, he said.
“With this technological upgradation, Bangladeshi channels will be available in the missions. Expatriates who go to the missions for services also can watch Bangladeshi channels,” said Dr Momen.
Lauding the effort, the information minister said in this era of technology, this kind of digital initiative will boost the services of Bangladesh missions abroad.
Dhaka, Mar 27 (UNB) - The government of District of Columbia has declared March 26, 2019, as "Bangladesh Day" to commemorate the 49th Independence and National Day of Bangladesh.
A formal proclamation was signed by Mayor of Washington, D.C. Muriel Bowser on Tuesday, said the Bangladesh Embassy.
“On this day, the people of Bangladesh remember the leadership of the father of their nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the valor of the freedom fighters that led to the independence of their country,” the mayor wrote.
She mentioned that the Embassy of Bangladesh has contributed to the cultural diversity of Washington, D.C. and participated in various events and programmes.
Dhaka, Mar 27 (UNB) – Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday reiterated that the government wants to bring back all the convicted criminals from abroad and implement the court verdicts as per the law of the land.
“Efforts are going on,” he told reporters when asked about the progress over bringing back convicted BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman from the UK and Noor Chowdhury, one of Bangabandhu’s convicted killers, from Canada.
The Foreign Minister also referred discussions between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Canadian counterpart Justine Trudeau over deportation of Noor Chowdhury.
Earlier, the Foreign Minister along with Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud jointly inaugurated ‘Demonstration and Introduction of STP (Set-Top) Boxes for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)’ in Bangladesh Missions abroad at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.