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Amnesty: World leaders failed to act against Myanmar atrocities

  • Published at 04:20 am August 25th, 2018
Rohingya refugees arrive in Bangladesh, September 2017Syed Zakir Hossain
File photo: More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine State since late August of 2017 after the security forces launched a brutal crackdown on the ethnic minority Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

In its June report, ‘We Will Destroy Everything’, Amnesty International named 13 individuals who played key roles in the atrocities against the Rohingya

World leaders’ failure to act has allowed the Myanmar security forces’ perpetrators of crimes against humanity to remain at large for a year after their murderous campaign against the Rohingya, Amnesty International has said.

In a statement issued on Friday, the international rights group said it had documented extensively how the Myanmar military offensive against the Rohingyas in the Rakhine state amounted to ethnic cleansing.

The offensive was launched on August 25 last year.

“This anniversary marks a shameful milestone. By its continued failure to hold to account those responsible for crimes against humanity, the international community risks sending the message that Myanmar’s military will not only enjoy impunity but will be allowed to commit such atrocities again. We must not let this happen,” said Tirana Hassan, crisis response director at Amnesty International.

“A year on, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya women, men, and children who fled this highly orchestrated attack are still in limbo in refugee camps in Bangladesh. As long as their tormentors in Myanmar’s security forces remain at large, any notion that Rohingya refugees can have a safe, dignified and voluntary return home is farcical.”

In June, UN agencies and the government of Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Understanding, described as a "first step" towards the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

But Amnesty said serious reforms are needed in northern Rakhine State for any future repatriations to be viable.

It said the Myanmar military’s vicious response to the August 2017 ARSA attacks came in the context of years of institutionalized discrimination and segregation amounting to apartheid – a crime against humanity.

“Having Rohingya refugees return from overcrowded camps in Bangladesh to what has been essentially an open-air prison in Rakhine State is not a viable option. States around the world must push for Myanmar to dismantle its system of apartheid and allow Rohingya and all other ethnic minorities to enjoy their rights to nationality and freedom of movement,” said Tirana Hassan.

“Lack of political will, not a lack of evidence, is at the root of the international community’s inaction. It is undeniable that Myanmar’s security forces committed crimes against humanity against the Rohingya. But while the international community drags its feet deciding what to do about it, vital evidence risks disappearing or being destroyed,” she said.

In its June report, ‘We Will Destroy Everything’, Amnesty International named 13 individuals – including Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing – who played key roles in the atrocities against the Rohingya.

The organization recommended concrete steps to hold them and others accountable – including a UN Security Council referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court and the establishment of an international mechanism to collect and preserve evidence for use in future criminal proceedings.

While the European Union, Canada and the United States have announced targeted sanctions against some of the alleged perpetrators in recent months, much more needs to be done urgently at the UN to ensure accountability.

“When the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly meet next month, strong, decisive action is needed to pave the way for justice for the Rohingya and for ethnic minorities in northern Myanmar. The UN Security Council must urgently refer the situation to the International Criminal Court – the threat of veto power is no excuse for inaction. This critical opportunity cannot be missed,” Tirana said.