In a report published on December 6, 2022, Toby Cadman – a UK lawyer who was part of the team that asked the US and UK governments for sanctions against Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) – told Al Jazeera that everyone involved was surprised when UK decided not to implement sanctions.
After war crimes trials of its senior leaders began, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami hired Toby Cadman as its legal counsel in London in 2011.
At the time, Tajul Islam, the legal representative for five Jamaat leaders, notified the media that Steven Kay QC, Toby Cadman, and John Cammegh had consented to represent the Jamaat leaders.
Al Jazeera, in its report, quoted Cadman as saying, “I filed the request for sanctions and whilst I am not in a position to discuss the substance, I can confirm that I discussed the request with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office [FCDO, UK].”
He added, “Having worked on both the US and UK request for sanctions, I was strongly of the view that a coordinated response was necessary in the circumstances… Our filing in the UK targeted political officials and those in the security sector…. It was certainly my position that the UK would issue mirror sanctions in coordination with the US. I was extremely disappointed when they failed to do so.”
The question that arises here then, is: Under what circumstances can a legal adviser, hired to represent a certain party, be considered “an independent voice” for human rights?
Can a lawyer be “independent”, if he cannot go against the interests of his clients?
Further question arises as to how some media outlets can continue to project Cadman as “an independent voice”.
It should also be noted that BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, in an interview published last month, had said the US sanctions on Rab helped rejuvenate the BNP rank and file to take to the streets fearlessly, something reflected in its recent rallies.
The detailed admission by Cadman, coupled with Fakhrul’s comment on US sanctions being a morale booster for them, makes the much-touted narrative that the sanctions were slapped on Rab solely because of serious violations of human rights look questionable. Considering these latest developments and revelations, there seem to be regime change intentions at play.
Moreover, a recent video of a Labour Party MP, in UK Parliament, asking the UK FCDO minister for Indo-Pacific why the UK did not go ahead with the sanctions at the last minute, makes the intentions more palpable.
(The writer is a Professor at the Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi. Views expressed are his own.)