Rohingyas are still fleeing homes, while Myanmar lays mines to prevent their return, Momen says
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen came down heavily on the United Nations, blaming the global body along with others for the ongoing Rohingya crisis, for which Bangladesh is suffering immensely without being any party to it.
He said Rohingyas are still fleeing their homes, and Myanmar is laying mines to obstruct their return.
“The UN made procedural mistakes in regards to the Rohingya issue. This crisis was not created in one day. Hatred and acrimony have been spread against the Rohingyas for a long time. The UN has not been aware,” the foreign minister told reporters after a seminar in Dhaka on Thursday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) organized the seminar on the 70th Anniversary of the Geneva Conventions at the Bangladesh International and Strategic Studies (BISS) auditorium.
Putting emphasis on creating the mindset to resolve conflicts across the world, the foreign minister noted that the UN believes in this, but it does not work accordingly.
“After the incidents [in Myanmar], the UN made some statements. But they did it for Bangladesh. Their footing is weak where it is supposed to work,” he said.
Earlier, speaking at the seminar as the chief guest, Dr Momen said: “We are painfully aware that respect for humanitarian law has been on the decline, causing further humanitarian crisis. Take the example of Myanmar.”
The military operations in Rakhine resulted in forced displacement of over a million innocent civilians, he reminded.
“Not only that, but the international reports, including those from the UN, suggest that the Rohingyas were subjected to mass atrocity crimes and the worst form of human rights violations in Myanmar,” he added.
The minister further said: “They [Myanmar] have laid mines to prevent the return of the displaced Rohingyas. Even today, Rohingyas continue to flee their homes to save themselves from forced starvation and deprivation of livelihood.
“It is not only Muslims, but also Buddhists, Hindus and other Rohingyas who are being forced out of their traditional homes and jobs,” Dr Momen said. “The international community must take strong resolve to ensure that Myanmar is held accountable for this gross violation of human rights. Otherwise the spirit and value of the Geneva Conventions will continue to be undermined.”
Shedding light on international humanitarian laws, Dr Momen said the four Geneva Conventions are among the very few international treaties that have been universally ratified, and these conventions reflect universal values of ethical behaviour.
“If we look at today’s global context, the power of international humanitarian law could be found in the battlefields of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan or Yemen. The consequences of these wars are heartbreaking,” said the minister.
“Conflict shatters lives in many different ways,” he added.
Detailing the rights under the Geneva Conventions, Dr Momen said every individual who is not or no longer actively participating in the hostilities of wars is entitled to protection and must be treated humanely.
Ikhtiyar Aslanov, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangladesh, said: “For me, it is not about anniversaries or debates on legal phrasing; it is about protecting people from the worst of the wars which rage today.
“It is about the laws that assert that as long as conflict remains a reality, there also must be a limit to suffering. And this is the message the ICRC has been carrying forward, including in Bangladesh since 1971,” he added.