Sunday, March 6, 2016

The food minister, defamatory allegations, and the International Crimes Tribunal

Qamrul Islam, the Food minister
Is it possible for there to be a conversation about Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal without one party making baseless arguments and allegations claiming that another party is (a) pro-Jamaati; or/and (b) a lobbyist for the Jammat;  or/and (c) paid by the Jamaat; or/and (d) someone who supports war criminals; or (e) some other combination of the words 'Jammat', 'war criminal', 'lobbyist', and 'money'? In Bangladesh, when one of those parties is writing critical commentary about the process, the answer  to this question seems to be 'No'.

It is this kind of defamatory 'name calling' that prevents the possibility of a civilised and intelligent debate about the proceedings, and is the reason why there are so few people who dare write at all about the Tribunal proceedings from anything other than an uncritically laudatory perspective.

Defamatory name calling has become a very effective silencing technique.

A few days ago, it was, of all people, Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha who was the subject of defamatory insinuations.

It is of course not just people in Bangladesh who have been subject to these defamatory allegations. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Economist and the New York Times have also been similarly accused.

I mention this now as at a meeting today at the office of the governing Awami League, the Food minister, Qamrul Islam made defamatory allegations against me involving some of those four words. The minister's comments about me are defamatory as the allegations do not have any factual basis. They are totally untrue. Since there is no evidence of any kind to support the allegation, any media repeating such allegation is also committing defamation - and so they should not publish them.

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