An Islamic rights group is urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, to investigate the government of Bangladesh for alleged crimes against humanity in persecuting its political foes.
British lawyer Toby Cadman said he filed the request on behalf of the International Coalition for Freedoms of Rights a month after Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s party won elections marred by violence and a boycott by the main opposition party.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will decide whether to launch an investigation after studying the application.
Tejshree Thapa, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said Tuesday the group is concerned about the potential for escalating violence in Bangladesh, especially after the January elections. But she said she believes government abuses haven’t been systematic enough to rise to the level of “crimes against humanity.”
In Bangladesh, the world’s fourth largest Muslim country with a population of 160 million, politics are divided between Hasina’s governing Awami League and the center-right Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
In Tuesday’s filing, Cadman’s office identified specific alleged instances of government forces shooting, detaining and torturing civilian protesters.
“It is clear that since the current Awami League government first came to power in 2009 there have been hundreds of deaths,” caused by government forces, the filing said. “Numbers are difficult to quantify due to the absence of credible investigations and the inability of the media and international nongovernmental organizations to properly document crimes.”
Requests for a response from Bangladesh’s foreign ministry and Hasina’s office went unanswered Tuesday.
Cadman has represented a small Islamist party allied with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in the past.
The International Coalition for Freedoms of Rights was formed in Istanbul, Turkey, last year after the military coup that removed Egypt’s former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi from office. The organization is closely associated with Islamist legal efforts to prosecute the coup leaders.