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'Refer to ICC or establish international tribunal to ensure justice for Rohingyas'

  • Published at 11:33 pm October 23rd, 2019
Rohingya people-Syed zakir Hossain
File photo: Rohingya people line up to be interviewed for the repatriation to Myanmar outside the office of the camp-in-charge in Shalbagan refugee camp, Cox's Bazar on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Chair of UN fact-finding mission for creation of ad hoc tribunal

United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee has urged the international community to refer to the entire situation in respect of serious human rights violations committed by the military of Bangladesh’s second neighbour against the Rohingyas, and others to the International Criminal Court or set up an international tribunal to ensure justice and non-recurrence.

She also called for imposing targeted sanctions against the companies run by Myanmar military, locally called Tatmadaw, and its commanders most responsible for serious violations.

 “An end to impunity in Myanmar remains a lofty, far-off goal,” Lee said presenting her latest report on human rights situation in Myanmar at the third committee of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

The UNGA third committee is responsible for dealing with agenda relating to a range of social, humanitarian affairs, and human rights issues that affect people all over the world.

“I remain resolute in my belief that it is unsafe for [Rohingya refugees] to return to Myanmar until the fundamental circumstances leading to their expulsion are remedied,” said the envoy, who is banned by the Myanmar government to enter the country.

“The abhorrent treatment of these people is completely antithetical to Myanmar’s human-rights, and child-rights obligations,” she said, indicating the treatment that any returning Rohingya would face.

Taking part in the discussion, along with many others, the representative of Bangladesh said the creation of a conducive environment is a prerequisite of the safe return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar. 

The report provides recommendations, such as the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, or the establishment of an international tribunal,” he said.

However, the Myanmar representative defended his country, and expressed ‘concerns about the activities of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in the Rohingya settlements in Cox’s Bazar.

When contacted, officials of the Bangladesh government denied the allegations outright, saying that Dhaka never allows any entity to operate against any country from its territory.    

Meanwhile, Marzuki Darusman, chair of the UN independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, told the third committee that different governments should consider the creation of an ad hoc tribunal, and indicate their willingness to exercise jurisdiction over the crimes under international law identified by this mission.

He also said that the serious crimes reported earlier are continuing in Rakhine, and that there is a risk of re-occurrence of genocide due to the near absence of accountability for grave human rights violations.

Expressing concern over discrimination against religious minorities, Lee pointed to 27 villages that describe themselves as “Muslim-free”, banning Muslims from entry. 

She also expressed concerns over the Myanmar government’s plans for hydropower development in conflict areas where communities have been displaced from their land, including in Rakhine, and Chin states. 

To questions, Lee said that business can help the peace process by reiterating that companies should follow guiding principles of business and human rights, conduct due diligence before implementing projects in affected areas such as Chin and Rakhine, and to suspend those projects if necessary. 

Businesses should also refrain from engaging with military-affiliated companies and their subsidiaries, she said.

Darusman said that the near absence of accountability for grave human-rights violations also confirms previous conclusions that the cycle of impunity enables, and fuels this reprehensible conduct by security forces. 

The blatant persecution of the Rohingyas continue unabated, he said. 

The situation of some 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Rakhine State is largely unchanged, and the underlying persecutory structural and systemic policies and practices continue, he added. 

“We conclude that there is a strong inference of continued genocidal intent on the part of the State in relation to the Rohingyas, and there is a serious risk of genocide recurring,” warned the chief of the fact-finding mission.

Myanmar is failing in its obligations under the Genocide Convention to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide, and to enact legislation criminalising and punishing genocide, he observed.

The situation of internally displaced Rohingyas remains of the utmost concern, Darusman said. 

Contrary to Government claims, camps for displaced persons have not been closed, and those who live in them face daily hardship, he said, adding that the return of nearly 1 million Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Rakhine State is “simply impossible” under current circumstances.