The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) has stressed the need for collective voice, support and solidarity to deal with the ongoing Rohingya crisis and to ensure the safe and sustainable return of Rohingya people who fled to Bangladesh to escape brutal atrocities in Rakhine state of Myanmar.
OIC also urged its member states to create sustained international pressure on the Myanmar government to resolve the crisis and to take back its nationals.
The Myanmar authorities who committed crimes against humanity and are living with impunity should be brought to justice under international law, they observed.
Representatives of the OIC member states made the remarks while speaking at a brainstorming session titled “The humanitarian challenges of the OIC countries, including those relating to the Rohingyas,” held in Dhaka on Sunday, the concluding day of the two-day 45th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (OIC-CFM).
OIC members’ proposals
At the session, Gambia proposed the OIC adopt a resolution for the establishment of an OIC ad hoc Ministerial Committee on Accountability for Crimes against Humanity.
According to the proposal, the committee will mobilize and coordinate international political support for ensuring accountability for the crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar authorities since August last year.
“In collaboration with international actors such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Security Council, International Criminal Court and other non-government organizations should take measures to keep up international pressure on Myanmar and hold it accountable for the offences,” it says.
Iraq proposed the OIC take immediate measures to forge a coalition that may help ensure the displaced people’s right to return to their homes in Rakhine.
Malaysian Foreign Ministry Secretary General Ramlan Ibrahim urged Muslim countries around the world to play a proactive role at the global level so that the Security Council seriously considers resolving the protracted crisis.
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OIC delegates during a session at Bangabandhu International Conference centre in Dhaka on Sunday, the concluding day of the 45th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, May 6, 2018 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
Over 700,000 forcibly-displaced Myanmar nationals have fled to Bangladesh following a military crackdown in Rakhine since August last year. With the fresh exodus, the number of Rohingyas taking shelter in Bangladesh has exceeded the one-million mark.
Rashid Al Balushi, president of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission, said immediate attention is required to take concrete measures in accordance with recommendations put forward by the Kofi Annan Commission on addressing the crisis.
Rashid Khalikov, assistant secretary general for humanitarian partnerships with the Middle East and Central Asia at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said a joint response plan, devised to tackle the humanitarian catastrophe, needs $951 million to meet the basic needs of some 1.3m Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
“The joint response plan focuses on essentials including shelter, food, water, healthcare, sanitation and education. But underfunding is a huge impediment to the response efforts.”
He suggested the OIC member countries organize a solidarity conference to raise more funds under the response plan for the Rohingyas.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said they had started sending the lists of refugees to Myanmar for their repatriation.
“There are still some problems on the Myanmar side. They [Myanmar authorities] are not accepting the Rohingya. Some have been accepted, but the number is very small,” he said.
“So, we are in communication with the Myanmar government and are sending revised lists. The problem is that we are ready to send back the refugees, but there is no house in Rakhine for them to live. Where will they live even if they are repatriated?”
Mentioning that discrimination and violence against Rohingya Muslims started at least 50 years back, Arakan Rohingya Union Director General Wakar Uddin said: “The most important thing at this moment is speedy and timely repatriation, because the Myanmar government and the country’s military are adept enough at buying time, thus delaying the repatriation process.”
He urged the UN and other international bodies to get involved deeply in this process to ensure safety and security of the endangered Rohingyas.
The concept note of the session states that Rohingya civilians in Rakhine are being subjected to unlawful use of force by extremist elements; the excessive use of force by Myanmar’s security forces; extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary killings; rape and other forms of sexual violence; large scale destruction of homes, villages, agricultural fields, and arbitrary detention, as well as enforced disappearances.
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Delegates of the OIC member states during a session at Bangabandhu International Conference centre in Dhaka on Sunday, the concluding day of the 45th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, May 6, 2018 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
In addition to the flagrant violation of human rights, lack of access to affected areas by humanitarian agencies is a matter of grave concern, it reads.
“The international community should call on the Myanmar government to fulfill its due obligations under customary international law and recognize persons domiciled in the sovereign territory of Myanmar since its independence as its own citizens, regardless of their ethno-religious roots,” the notes adds.
It says the Myanmar authorities must also ensure a conducive environment in Rakhine to facilitate the safe return of its nationals from Bangladesh.
The session also discussed aid and humanitarian aspects, environmental effects of the refugee influx, and human rights, among other points.
Canada committed to work on accountability issue
Canada is committed to work on the issue of accountability based on well-established law for what is now taking place in Rakhine, its special envoy to Myanmar Bob Rae said.
Rejecting Myanmar's claim that it is their internal affair, Rae said: “You [Myanmar] cannot say what is happening in your country is entirely yours, while over a million people have left your country. The issue has become an international one. It is an issue that touches its neighborhood, touches Bangladesh and the entire region. In fact, it touches the entire world.
“We believe in accountability. We are very committed to working on the accountability issue. It will require the gathering of evidence and greater coordination of efforts at the Security Council and at the General Assembly.”
He also said Canada would continue to work with the OIC members and other stakeholders on the issue of accountability.
“The principles have been well established in international law and practices. It is no longer possible for anyone to commit crimes against humanity and lives with impunity. There must be responsibility and accountability for what is taking place [in Myanmar],” Rae added.
The Canadian diplomat underscored the need for addressing the humanitarian issues both in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
“Still, there are close to 400,000 Rohingyas living in a difficult situation in Myanmar. We must remember their situation and ask the Myanmar government to allow a greater humanitarian presence so that we can do more to ensure well-beings of the people who are living in the country.”
He said Bangladesh cannot be left alone in dealing with this crisis as it is a moral and political obligation for every nation to come forward to tackle the issue.
“We cannot ignore the obligation we have [in this regard].”