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Donald Verrilli, one of the longest serving solicitor General in the American History, steps down in June

Donald Verrilli has fought in our nation’s highest court for a better future, winning landmark cases that moved America forward, said Obama

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U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli (top R) departs following the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew in Washington, October 6, 2013. Image source: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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  • Donald Verrilli stepping down as the U.S Solicitor General
  • Verrilli is one of the longest serving solicitor general in the American History
  • His principal deputy Ian Gershengorn will replace him as the Solicitor General on June 25

U.S Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is stepping down after representing United States Government for 5 years at Supreme Court, the White House announced on Thursday, June 2. Solicitor General is person who represents the government at the Supreme Court and Donald Verrilli is one the longest serving solicitor general in the American History.

U.S president Obama in his statement said,” Donald Verrilli has fought in our nation’s highest court for a better future, winning landmark cases that moved America forward. Don has been a dedicated public servant who has helped our nation live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. I am grateful for his trusted counsel and friendship. And I wish Don and his family all the best in what comes next, including, hopefully, a well-deserved vacation.”

White House. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
White House. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

He added “Thanks to his efforts, 20 million more Americans now know the security of quality, affordable health care; we’re combatting discrimination so that more women and minorities can own their piece of the American Dream; we’ve reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring that immigrants are treated fairly; and our children will now grow up in a country where everyone has the freedom to marry the person they love.”

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Verrilli has been part of many landmark cases before the Supreme Court including successful defence of the Affordable Care Act, immigration and striking down state’s prohibition of same-sex marriage.

Loretta Lynch in a statement said that Verrilli will leave on June 24 and his principal deputy Ian Gershengorn will assume his role as an acting capacity on June 25, until the next president is elected.

Ian Gershengorn is a graduate from Harvard Law School, and has clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens in private practice. He has also served in the Clinton administration.

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Lynch praised Gershengorn by saying that she has “no doubt that Ian is well-equipped to build on departing Solicitor General Don Verrilli’s extraordinary record.

“I am confident that he will advance a trailblazing legacy of excellence and accomplishment. And I am certain that as Acting Solicitor General, he will expand and extend the vital work of the Obama Administration and the American people,” she added.

-prepared by Bhaskar Raghavendran, a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter: bhaskar_ragha

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Rohingyas Repatriation to Myanmar Scrapped by Bangladesh

Negotiations for repatriation have been in the works for months.

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Rohingya, myanmar
An elderly Rohingya refugee holds a placard during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh.VOA

Bangladesh’s plans to begin repatriating Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar Thursday were scrapped because officials were unable to find anyone who wanted to return to the country that has been accused of driving out hundreds of thousands in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The refugees “are not willing to go back now,” Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told The Associated Press. He said officials “can’t force them to go” but will continue to try to “motivate them so it happens.”

Some people on the government’s repatriation list disappeared into the sprawling refugee camps to avoid being sent home, while others joined a large demonstration against the plan.

Rohingya, myanmar
Workers build a Rohingya repatriation center in Gunndum near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

UN urged a halt to repatriation

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 2017 to escape killings and destruction of their villages by the military and Buddhist vigilantes that have drawn widespread condemnation of Myanmar.

The United Nations, whose human rights officials had urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation process even as its refugee agency workers helped to facilitate it, welcomed Thursday’s development.

Firas Al-Khateeb, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Cox’s Bazar, said it was unclear when the process might begin again.

“We want their repatriation, but it has to be voluntary, safe and smooth,” he said.

Bangladesh officials declined to say whether another attempt at repatriation would be made Friday.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali told reporters in Dhaka late Thursday that “there is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?”

Rohingya, myanmar
Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Pleading with Rohingya

At the Unchiprang refugee camp, a Bangladeshi refugee official implored the Rohingya on Thursday to return to their country over a loudspeaker.

“We have arranged everything for you, we have six buses here, we have trucks, we have food. We want to offer everything to you. If you agree to go, we’ll take you to the border, to the transit camp,” he said.

“We won’t go!” hundreds of voices, including children’s, chanted in reply.

Some refugees on the repatriation lists, which authorities say were drawn up with assistance from the UNHCR, said they don’t want to go back.

‘I don’t want to go back’

At the Jamtoli refugee camp, one of the sprawling refugee settlements near the city of Cox’s Bazar, 25-year-old Setara said she and her two children, age 4 and 7, were on a repatriation list, but her parents were not. She said she had never asked to return to Myanmar, and that she had sent her children to a school run by aid workers Thursday morning as usual.

“They killed my husband; now I live here with my parents,” said Setara, who only gave one name. “I don’t want to go back.”

She said that other refugees on the repatriation list had fled to other camps, hoping to disappear amid the crowded lanes of refugees, aid workers and Bangladeshi soldiers, which on Thursday were bustling with commerce and other activity.

Rohingya, Myanmar
Rohingya refugees shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Plan to return 150 a day

Bangladesh had planned to send an initial group of 2,251 back from mid-November at a rate of 150 per day.

Myanmar officials, speaking late Thursday in the capital, Naypyitaw, said they were ready to receive the refugees. Despite those assurances, human rights activists said conditions were not yet safe for the Rohingya to go back.

The exodus began after Myanmar security forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts. The scale, organization and ferocity of the crackdown led the U.N. and several governments to accuse Myanmar of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group, viewing them as “Bengalis” who entered illegally from Bangladesh, even though generations of Rohingya have lived in Myanmar. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, as well as access to education and hospitals.

Rohingya, Myanmar
Rohingya refugees cross floodwaters at Thangkhali refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. VOA

Refugee camps bleak

The refugees survived the ransacking of villages, rapes and killings in Myanmar, but for many, life in Bangladesh’s squalid refugee camps has been bleak.

The refugees who’ve arrived in the last year joined a wave of 250,000 Rohingya Muslims who escaped forced labor, religious persecution and violent attacks from Buddhist mobs in Myanmar during the early 1990s.

Access to education and employment has been far from assured.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who hopes to retain power in December elections, has repeatedly complained that hosting more than a million Rohingya is taxing local resources.

Negotiations for repatriation have been in the works for months, but plans last January to begin sending refugees back were called off amid concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that their return would be met with violence.

Foreign leaders, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, criticized Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week on the sidelines of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore for her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Also Read: Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due To Forceful Repatriation

But on Thursday, Pence said that U.S. officials were “encouraged to hear that” the repatriation process would begin.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would continue working with international partners including the U.N. “to ensure that the Rohingya themselves are part of any decisions on their future.” (VOA)