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S Asian MPs: Force Myanmar to face ICC for atrocities

  • Published at 12:16 pm August 24th, 2018
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BURNED OUT: A car sits in what remains of a Rohingya village near Maungdaw town in Rakhine State during the military crackdown in August 2017. Reuters

Justice for the Rohingya is an issue that goes beyond regional politics—it concerns humanity as a whole, they said in a statement

More than 130 lawmakers, from across the Southeast Asia, have demanded the international community bring Myanmar officials to justice—for committing crimes against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State.

In a joint statement, 132 sitting MPs from: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Timor-Leste – including 22 members of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) – called on members of the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

Since Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the ICC does not have the jurisdiction in the country.  Only the UNSC can trigger an investigation by the Court, according to the statement UNB received from Jakarta. 

“One year has passed since the Myanmar military launched its murderous operation in Rakhine State, yet we’re no closer to seeing those responsible brought to justice. As Myanmar is clearly both unwilling and unable to investigate itself, we’re now at a stage where the international community must step in to ensure accountability,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of Malaysian Parliament.

“I stand together with 131 of my elected peers in calling on the members of the UNSC to immediately refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC. Those in Myanmar responsible for these horrific crimes must be held to account; they cannot be left free to commit the same abuses again in the future," said Santiago.

The MPs recognized the crucial role played by their own governments in pursuing accountability. 

They urged Asean members, including Indonesia – which will take a seat on the UNSC next year – to press the Myanmar government and military to end all forms of human rights violations against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities.

They also urged the international community to support the calls of Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, to establish an international accountability mechanism that impartially investigates human rights violations in the country. 

The Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown targeting the Rohingya, in August last year, in response to what it said was attacks by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on police outposts.

Myanmar security forces killed thousands of Rohingyas, burned their villages, committed widespread sexual violence, and forced more than 700,000 members of the ethnic minority to flee into Bangladesh.

Although human rights groups have credibly documented violations against Rohingyas that amount to crimes against humanity, Myanmar officials have largely ignored that any abuses have taken place. 

While Naypyidaw has announced a “commission of inquiry” into the events in Rakhine State, Myanmar has a long track record of establishing similar bodies that have rarely held the guilty accountable.

This lack of accountability is affecting people in other ethnic-minority areas too—including Kachin and Shan State.

The statement said Myanmar’s internal procedures were meant to deflect international pressure. It urged the Asean countries to set aside their “destructive ‘non-interference’ policy” and take genuine action. 

“Justice for the Rohingya is an issue that goes beyond regional politics—it concerns humanity as a whole. We cannot allow these atrocities to take place in one of our member countries with complete impunity,” said APHR Board Member, Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of the Indonesian House of Representative.

Sundari said the fact that more than 100 sitting parliamentarians from across the region are willing to speak up shows the level of regional support for the Rohingya, and for human rights. Governments must now follow suit and condemn Myanmar for its horrific policies and practices. 

"We’re combining our voices with all those around the globe that are demanding the world stand up against atrocious crimes and bring those responsible to account.”