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Bangladesh representative to UN: 'State' failing in duty to protect all civilians

  • Published at 08:44 pm May 23rd, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:38 am May 24th, 2018
BANGLADESH-MYANMAR-REFUGEE-UNREST-UN
A Rohingya refugee reacts while holding his dead son after crossing the Naf river from Myanmar into Bangladesh in Whaikhyang on October 9, 2017 AFP

Bangladesh was joined by several other countries when they addressed the Security Council in its open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict

The latest Rohingya humanitarian crisis has once again revealed the total abdication of State responsibility to protect civilians, irrespective of their status or treatment, a top diplomat from Bangladesh said at the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

Without naming neighbouring Myanmar, the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, Masud Bin Momen, said that for months together, the world witnessed the forced expulsion of a persecuted minority that the concerned state authorities continue to claim as the work of a fringe extremist group.

Even if this narrative were to be accepted, it would mean that the State concerned has acknowledged its inability or unwillingness to discharge its responsibility to protect all civilians on its territory, Momen said in his address to the UN Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.

“The latest Rohingya humanitarian crisis has once again revealed to us the concerned state authorities' total abdication of their responsibility to protect civilians, irrespective of their status or treatment,” Momen said.

Reiterating the remarks of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her address to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly last year, he called for creating “safe zones” in Myanmar's Rakhine State for protecting civilians under the aegis of the UN or relevant regional partners.

“In the absence of such safeguards, the forcibly displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh continue to remain in sheer uncertainty about the prospects for their voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return to Rakhine State,” he said.

To further compound the situation, humanitarian access has remained restricted and the Rohingya that still ventured to stay behind were denied food supply and medical care, he rued. “Despite some verbal assurance, there has been no credible investigation or prosecution by the concerned national authorities for the alleged atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingya,” Momen said.

Bangladesh was joined by several other countries when they addressed the Security Council in its open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict.

The situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar is among the most pressing examples of atrocities said Christian Wenaweser, the Ambassador from Liechtenstein. Welcoming the recent visit of the Council to Myanmar and Bangladesh, he said at the same time, the visit has not inspired a sense of urgency in the Council's actions.

“There is little indication that the Council will address the accountability dimension of the ongoing crisis. But it is clear that ensuring justice is part of the conditions necessary to allow for the safe and voluntary return of the forcibly displaced Rohingya population,” he said.

Meanwhile, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary‑General, told reporters that more than 7,000 people were affected by storms or landslides in the week of 7‑14 May alone. 

Noting that the monsoons typically shed 2.5 meters of rain on Cox’s Bazar, resulting in significant flooding, the spokesman said that as a result, 150,000‑200,000 refugees and 883 community facilities are at risk from flooding and landslides during the monsoon season, including 25,000 refugees at critical risk.  UN Agencies have ramped up preparedness activities to mitigate the effects of the rains on refugees, he said.

“We recognize that Bangladesh has been dealing with monsoons annually, and has developed some experience in these matters.  However, the situation present in the refugee camps is unique in scope and volume, and the international humanitarian community is working to support and protect the refugee communities most at risk,” Dujarric said. 

“More flat land on the mainland, to temporarily relocate the refugees to, would be appreciated.  The lack of sufficient safe space for at‑risk refugees, and the lack of safe shelters, limits our risk mitigation possibilities,” he said.