40 Million People Affected by Historic Flood in South Asia

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 
NEW DELHI, India – Since August, millions of people in South Asia have been impacted by the region’s worst flood in 40 years. It is reported that around 40 million people are affected by the massive flood.
The flood leaves over 1,000 deaths in South Asia. Photo courtesy of BBC.

Over 1,400 have died so far and tens of thousands are living in tents all across the region. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states in India, the Terai region in Nepal, and Kurigram and Chimari districts in Bangladesh have been hit the worst.

In Bangladesh alone, over 8 million people are affected. It also reported that over 13,000 people are currently suffering from diarrhea and respiratory infections after the flood. According to the Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, diarrhea, malaria and dengue are on the rise in some parts of the country.

In Nepal, around 1.7 million people are affected with 26,844 cases of illness around the country. Although no epidemic has been reported, many health officials are taking extreme caution and monitoring the situation closely.

With the danger of mosquito and waterborne diseases, the risks are said to be greater for children and women. In India, around 17 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance.

Because the floods were so extreme, many families have been struggling to find proper burial grounds due to the lack of dry land.

Recently, the Scottish government donated from the government’s Humanitarian Emergency Fund. The money is to provide any immediate and life saving aid in the region.

Reuters – Thousands hit by malaria, dengue as South Asia’s worst floods in a decade recede – 6 September, 2017

ABC – South Asia floods: Estimated 40 million across India, Bangladesh, Nepal affected – 8 September, 2017

BBC – South Asia floods: Scottish government donates £300,000 from emergency fund – 9 September, 2017

Bangladesh Law Allows Underage Marriage Under “Special Circumstances”

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – A Bangladesh law now allows girls under the age of 18 to be married off by their parents under special circumstances. Such circumstances are left undefined by the law, allowing parents to petition for a court order simply if an underage marriage is deemed in the child’s “best interests”. There is no minimum age for when such circumstances should apply and no definition for the “best interest” requirement. The minimum age to wed in Bangladesh is 18 for women and 21 for men.

A social worker provides counseling to a young girl in Ashkarpur, Bangladesh in 2013. Photo courtesy of: UNICEF.

Human rights activists are concerned that this law could legitimize rape and sexual misuse by allowing children to marry their abusers. The Bangladeshi government defended the new legislation, condemning rape and encouraging people to trust the integrity of the legal system to discern legitimate special circumstances.

Still, Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage in Asia, with 52 percent of girls marrying before they turn 18 years of age and 18 percent of girls marrying under the age of 15. Child advocates warn that this law could threaten girls’ safety and urge the government to train Bangladeshi judges and social workers to screen for cases of sexual violence and ensure that girls are not victim of rape.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Bangladesh: Legalizing Child Marriage Threatens Girls’ Safety – 2 March, 2017

CNN – Human rights groups condemn new Bangladesh child marriage law – 3 March, 2017

Reuters – Bangladesh law allowing child brides may legitimize rape – 1 March, 2017

The Hindu – New child marriage law sparks uproar – 4 March, 2017

Dozens Dead After Attacks in Rakhine State in Myanmar

by Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar — At least 24 people were killed in last Monday following an attack by unknown assailants on police outposts near the Burmese-Bangladeshi border. Burmese officials claimed the attacks were by an Islamist group in Rohingya region.

Burmese Border Patrol Guard in Rakhine State (Photo Courtesy of Telegraph)
Burmese Border Patrol Guard in Rakhine State (Photo Courtesy of Telegraph)

Three police outposts were attacked by unknown assailants near the border in Rakhine State. Myanmar’s police chief, Major General Zaw Win, said that nine police officers were killed in the attacks. Along with the police officers, at least eight militants were also killed. Police officials said the militants were able to take 62 weapons and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition. General Zaw Win said the attackers used “used swords, spears and homemade weapons.”

Counter-operations began after the attacks in a township next to the border in Rakhine State called Maungdaw. Joint army and police forces killed seven villagers of the Rohingya Muslim minority. A local man, U Zaw Oo, witnessed the event and said that around six in the morning government forces came and gunned down seven men. U Zaw Oo also stated that the town is very quiet following the event at the local Muslim population is terrified of the security forces. Another Rohingya Muslim in the area stated that the people that were shot were fleeing.

Since these events, violence has been increasing in Rakhine State. On October 15, a man was shot while collecting bamboo near Myo Village. His brother stated that he was a teacher in Maungdaw. On the same day, military officials reported that three police officers were attacked by knife-wielding assailants. The police shot and killed the assailants.

The United Nations special adviser to Burma, Vijay Nambiar, urged both troops and residents to have restraint. He called on civilians to “not be provoked into any kind of response by targeting other communities or religious groups.”  A senior researcher at Human Rights Watch also stated, “The search for perpetrators cannot descend into abuses of a local population already suffering under sharp restrictions on freedom of movement, work and access to services.”

The Rohingya Muslim minority in the area have been denied citizenship in Myanmar and are, thus, stateless people. Buddhists nationalists in the country deem the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants in the state. In 2012, sectarian violence in Rakhine led to the death of more than 100 people and moving 10,000 people into displacement camps.

For more information, please see:

Daily Star — Myanmar blames Islamist group for attacks in Rohingya Muslim region — 15 October 2016

Myanmar Times — Death toll rises, more arrests made in troubled northern Rakhine State — 17 October 2016

New York Times — Dozens Believed Killed as Violence Erupts in Myanmar — 10 October 2016

Telegraph — Many dead as hundreds of men wielding pistols and swords assail troops in Burma’s restive Rakhine — 12 October 2016


Bangladesh Executes Financial Backer of Islamist Party for War Crimes

by Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Mir Quasem Ali, a former media tycoon, was executed after being convicted of war crimes during the Bangladesh’s war for independence in 1971. Ali was a financier to the largest Islamist Party in the country, the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Mir Quasem Ali was Tried and Convicted of War Crimes in 2014 (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Ali was formally arrested in 2012 and charged in mid 2013. The charges involved murder and torture, including the abduction and murder of a young man in a torture chamber. Throughout the trial Ali proclaimed his innocence and stated that the charges were unjustifiable. Ali was found guilty on 8 charges, two of which carried the death sentence, in 2014 before the International Crimes Tribunal that was set up to try war criminals from the 1971 conflict.

A five-member appellate court upheld the decision of the trial court and the sentences. The Supreme Court rejected a final appeal earlier in the week. Ali did not seek presidential pardon which requires an admission of guilt. Ali was hanged at 10:30 PM on Saturday. His body was driven from the prison in an ambulance early Sunday morning to his home village in Manikganj for burial. Family members had requested his body be buried in Dhaka but government officials refused.

Following the execution, a security operation was staged to prevent violence. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that security operations were underway to keep the peace including deployment of paramilitary border guards and more police in Dhaka. The opposition party proclaimed the trial to be “political vengeance” and stated they would stage protests on Monday.

Both the Jamaat-e-Islami party and human rights experts around the world have questions the integrity of the International Crimes Tribunal set up shortly after the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, came to power. Ali, who was the former head of the Diganta Media Corporation, is the latest in members of the opposition party to be executed at the tribunal. Since 2010, six opposition leaders have been executed, five of whom were from the Jamaat-e-Islami party. As a total, 24 people have been sentence to death at the tribunal.

The war in 1971 began when self-determination groups in East Pakistan revolted against Pakistani leadership which led to armed conflict. The war became a hot spot during the Cold War as the United States, former Soviet Union, and People’s Republic of China were involved in the conflict. The end of the conflict led to Bangladesh gaining independence from Pakistan.

Prime Minister Hasina says the conflict left 3 million dead and over 400,000 women were raped. Pakistani forces and Jamaat-e-Islami supported militias were accused of systematic executions and rape during the war. Pro-Pakistani militias were accused of setting up detention centers were liberation supporters were tortured, including one at Chittagong, that Ali was accused of running.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Bangladesh hangs Islamist Mir Quasem Ali for 1971 war crimes — 4 September 2016

The Daily Star –Review binned, death stays for Quasem — 30 August 2016

The Hindu —  Bangladesh executes Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali — 4 September 2016

Time — Bangladesh Court Upholds Death Sentence of Islamist Leader Convicted of War Crimes — 30 August 2016

Yahoo — Bangladesh executes 5th Islamist party leader for 1971 war — 3 September 2016