Dhaka to seek OIC finance for Gambia’s legal battle over Rohingyas

By Tanzim Anwar

DHAKA, Nov 24, 2020 (BSS) – Bangladesh is set to initiate a fund mobilization campaign to support Gambia’s legal battle against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the Rohingya genocide as OIC foreign ministers are due to meet this week in Niger.

Talking to BSS ahead of his Niger tour, Bangladesh foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said Dhaka itself planned to offer amount to help Gambia fight the case and ask the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries to stand by the West African nation with financial assistance.

“We will disburse our fund to OIC for supporting Gambia to run the case in ICJ as they need financial support after appointing lawyer for the case,” Momen told BSS today as he is scheduled to join the 47th session of 57-member OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in person in Niger from Nov 27-28.

He said Gambia, an OIC member as well, volunteered to move to ICJ with the Rohingya issue and needed the financial support to fight the case.

“Dhaka will make a strong plea” in the regard, he said.

Officials familiar with Bangladesh initiatives said Dhaka by now disbursed a fund to the OIC for supporting the Gambia’s case but declined to disclose the amount saying it would be befitting to announce it during the CFM meeting with its theme being “United against Terrorism for Peace and Development”.

OIC General Secretariat set the stage for the meeting in Niger’s capital Niamey.

Momen expected the Rohingya crisis to largely dominate CMF agenda to add afresh pressure on Myanmar in the “accountability and justice front” and to take back their nationals from Bangladesh.

File photo

”The OIC took the Rohingya issue seriously . . . all the OIC members have been supporting us strongly over the issue in the United Nations,” he said.

He added that the OIC response to the crisis was visible though being a grouping it might not be a very strong bloc to resolve the issue.

Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar district and most of them arrived there since August 25, 2017 after the military crackdown at their homeland.

OIC Secretary General Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen earlier in a statement said the existing issues concerning the Muslim countries were included in the CFM agenda like Palestinian cause, fight against violence, extremism and terrorism, Islamophobia and religious defamation.

The CFM, he said, simultaneously would discuss how to raise funds for the Rohingya case at the ICJ.

On November last year, Gambia had brought the case against Myanmar to the ICJ with the backing of OIC, Canada and the Netherlands while ICJ held its first hearing on December 10-12.

At the December hearing, Gambia accused Myanmar of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide Convention through a bloody military campaign with an aim to “get Myanmar to account for its action against its own people: the Rohingyas”.

On January 23 last the ICJ made the historic unanimous decision ordering provisional measures to prevent further acts of genocide against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

On February this year, Bangladesh urged the OIC for continued support to Gambia in the case until a final verdict is issued as well as to ensure safe, dignified and sustained repatriation of Rohingyas to their land of origin in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Dhaka made the proposal during at the 47th CMF preparatory meeting of senior OIC officials, where Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen led the Bangladesh delegation, held at the organization’s general secretariat in Jeddah.

At the meeting, the OIC member states agreed with Bangladesh proposals while OIC general secretariat has set up a dedicated account to facilitate the resource mobilization efforts.

Earlier, foreign minister Dr Momen urged at different global multilateral platforms to create a ‘Friends of the Gambia group’ for promoting international justice and accountability for the Rohingyas.

Canada and the Netherlands have already joined the group and vowed its all-out support to Gambia for its case with the ICJ.

COVID and Vaccine

During the CFM, the foreign minister said that Dhaka would present Bangladesh’s so far success, under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in containing the coronavirus in a huge densely populated country like Bangladesh.

Dr Momen said that Bangladesh would advocate for equal distribution of potential COVID vaccine to all countries irrespective of rich and poor.

“Our position is very clear … vaccine should be distributed among all countries without discrimination … no one should be left behind,” he said.

Saying that Bangladesh is in a leadership role in promoting equal access of potential COVID vaccine to the global platforms, Momen added, “We do believe in principle that unless all are COVID free, no one can COVID free.”

Migrant workers

The foreign minister said that rights of migrant workers would be another important agenda for Bangladesh at the CFM as rich Middle Eastern OIC member states host huge numbers of expatriate Bangladeshi workers.

“We will express our gratitude to the host countries for providing support to our nationals amid the pandemic,” he said referring that Saudi Arabia had extended its aid to irrespective of legal and undocumented Bangladeshi workers there.

The Saudi Arabia has already taken back 86,000 Bangladeshi workers including 34,000 with new employments after the lockdown, he said adding, “It’s not an easy task.”

Bilateral meetings

On the sideline of the CFM, Dr Momen is also scheduled to hold separate bilateral meetings with his Saudi Arabian, Maldivians and Afghanistan counterparts.

He is also likely to meet separately with the foreign ministers of the United Arb Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, foreign ministry’s official sources said.

The foreign minister will be accompanied by foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen, Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr. Mohammad Javed Patwary, who is also Bangladesh Permanent Representative to OIC and Director General of International Organization (IO) of the foreign ministry Wahida Ahmed.

The OIC foreign ministers will also discuss, over two days, political, humanitarian, economic, socio-cultural and other issues related to science and technology, the media and the implementation progress on the OIC plan of action 2025.

The situation of Muslim minorities and communities in non-member states as well as civilizational, cultural and religious dialogue promotion, and other matters that may come before the council, OIC secretariat said.


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