January 13, 2021

Lawyers in Refuge

This series by the International Refugee Law Committee interviews lawyers who have fled their home countries due to violence and persecution.  

The attacks in the Arakan, Burma (Myanmar) against Rohingya peoples and members of different religious minority groups which took place in 2017 brought international attention to atrocity crimes that have continually taken place for over 50 years. Currently, the Burmese government has been brought forward at the International Court of Justice to respond to allegations that it has breached the Genocide Convention. In addition the International Criminal Court has begun preliminary investigations into the matter. The ABA International Law Division successfully had a Resolution passed in the House of Delegates relating to atrocity crimes in the Arakan, in addition to continuing to advocate for the Rohingya people through Rule of Law letters.

Nurul Islam

Chair, Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (UK)

Nurul Islam is a Rohingya lawyer and Chair of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (UK). who fled from Burma. The International Refugee Law Committee sat down with him to learn more about how he is using the law even if he is not at home.

PDF with Citations

What caused you to leave home?

Every day I saw or heard injustices done to our innocent people. I myself encountered discriminations, humiliation and injustices many a time. The Rohingya have no opportunities to remedying their grievances. Many times, we were in troubles when complaining or protesting such wrongs and injustices. They never treated us as human beings. Lastly, I realized that I could not do anything for my people living in a lawless country. So, I decided to leave the country.

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

I was born and brought up in Maungdaw Township under tyranny. Violations of human rights of Rohingya have had widespread in northern Arakan/Rakhine State. There has been no law and order. The perpetrators, most of them government security forces and state sponsored non-state actors, are not accountable for their crimes against the Rohingya people. The Rohingya are always vulnerable. This lawlessness inspired me to study laws to know what human rights are and become a lawyer.

What do you currently do?

I am the Chairman of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), which is striving hard for the restitution of the rights and freedoms of Rohingya people, including their ethnic and citizenship rights, through diplomacy, advocacy and other peaceful activities.

How do you use the law in the work that you do?

I believe that human rights have a central role in the life of a nation and its citizens. I endeavour to present and educate the members of our community the basic principles of fundamental freedoms which allow us to develop fully and use our human qualities and conscience. I use the law to empower myself and members of the Rohingya community to fight against corruptions, wrongs and injustices, as well as for the promotion and protection of human rights in the society. One of the most important things I am working on is that the crime of genocide that is continually perpetrated against the Rohingya people is stopped and is recognized so that others in Burma will not suffer the same fate.