An independent panel has concluded war crimes were committed by Myanmar forces during security operations, but it stopped short of talking of genocide against Rohingya.
An independent commission appointed by Myanmar’s government said Monday that war crimes were likely committed against the Rohingya ethnic minority by Myanmar security forces during counterinsurgency operations.
The “Independent Commission of Enquiry,” (ICOE) was formed in 2018 in response to international calls for accountability from Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis.
Although the ICOE statement implies that Myanmar’s security forces are guilty of major abuses, which is more direct than previous public statements by Myanmar’s government, the panel said there is “no evidence” of genocide.
More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017. More than 900,000 Rohingya continue to live in refugee camps in southern Bangladesh.
The UN has said Myanmar’s military operations targeted Rohingya areas, with gang rapes and mass killings and destruction of villages carried out with “genocidal intent.”
A statement released by the ICOE said the “killing of innocent villagers took place during an “internal armed conflict” provoked by Rohingya attacks on police outposts. It said the response was “disproportionate” but did not amount to genocide.
“War crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law took place during the security operations … There are reasonable grounds to believe that members of Myanmar’s security forces were involved.”
ICJ to rule on Myanmar genocide
In November, the Gambia filed a case with the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Myanmar of an “ongoing genocide” against the Rohingya, and urging the court to take emergency measures. The ICJ in The Hague will issue a decision on the request Thursday.
The Myanmar government faced increasing pressure during 2019 for international justice for its human rights violations against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2020. Respect for free expression and assembly also declined sharply during the year as the authorities escalated their use of repressive criminal laws.
“Myanmar’s failure to hold its military accountable for atrocities against the Rohingya is finally turning the wheels of international justice,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Two international courts are now examining whether Myanmar committed genocide and who should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.”
In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the Chinese government, which depends on repression to stay in power, is carrying out the most intense attack on the global human rights system in decades. He finds that Beijing’s actions both encourage and gain support from autocratic populists around the globe, while Chinese authorities use their economic clout to deter criticism from other governments. It is urgent to resist this assault, which threatens decades of progress on human rights and our future.
Myanmar appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on December 10-12 to respond to a complaint filed by Gambia for alleged violations of the Genocide Convention. Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi rejected the genocide allegations, claiming that there was no orchestrated campaign of persecution despite considerable evidence of military atrocities against the Rohingya.
In a speech on Wednesday at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that lasted about 30 minutes, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended her country’s military against allegations of genocide.
The case, filed by The Gambia, accuses Myanmar of violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, with regard to a bloody crackdown in 2017 in which thousands of Rohingya were abused, displaced and killed.
The hearing concludes on Thursday, but a final judgment could take several years.
In her opening statement, the former human rights icon denied “genocidal intent” on the part of the military and outlined the history of tensions in Rakhine state.
She promised that civilians and members of the military who attacked innocent people would be prosecuted, but repeatedly termed the 2017 crackdown as “internal conflict”, saying Myanmar’s military was responding to attacks by armed local groups, such as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
But she failed to use one word in the 3,379-word speech to describe the minority, an ethnic group that has been persecuted for years in Myanmar and denied citizenship rights – Rohingya.
She only used the word Rohingya when referring to ARSA.
Critics said her refusal to use the word is part of Myanmar’s attempt to strip the minority of their identity and rights.
“It’s routine for Rohingya to be called Bengalis and even described as Kalars, a slur referring to their darker complexion, to deny that they’re native to Rakhine,” Kaamil Ahmed, a journalist who has reported on the Rohingya and is writing a book about the minority, told Al Jazeera.
“Aung San Suu Kyi doesn’t use the terms but she has suggested that they’re not from Myanmar and she has refused to call them Rohingya, even claiming it’s a polarising term.
When Myanmar’s state counselor arrived at the Hague to defend her country at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), several rights groups launched a global boycott initiative urging corporations, foreign investors, professional and cultural organizations to sever their institutional ties with Myanmar.
Thirty Human rights, academic and professional organizations from 10 countries jointly launched the “Boycott Myanmar Campaign” from London, in hopes to “bring to bear economic, cultural, diplomatic and political pressure on Myanmar’s coalition government of [state counselor] Aung San Suu Kyi and the military”, the campaigners said in a statement.
Myanmar faces a lawsuit at the ICJ filed by West African country Gambia, with the support of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in the country over the past few years.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, said in a statement last month that she, as foreign minister, is to attend the first hearing of the lawsuit on Dec. 10, to defend “the interests of the country”.
The latest massive military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar in 2017 forced more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, to flee the country and cross into Bangladesh.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.”
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
Suu Kyi is widely criticized for her silence against the mass killings and war against humanity as she now attempts to defend against alleged military atrocities — which the UN human rights chief described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” — at the international court.
Rohingya Youth Call on the International Community to Act at Landmark Conference
Young Rohingya people and other ethnic minority activists have come together at a landmark conference to demand justice and an end to human rights violations in Myanmar, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) announced today.
The first ever International Rohingya Youth Conference was held between 29 November and 1 December at Queen Mary University in London, UK. More than 45 participants from 9 countries attended, representing not just Rohingya but also Karen, Kachin, Burman, Tibetan, and Uyghur groups.
“With the survival of the Rohingya people at stake, young people are more important than ever. They are our future leaders, who can provide ideas, energy and urgency to our cause. This week’s conference was a unique opportunity not just to listen to their voices, but also to foster solidarity with other minority groups living through oppression,” said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.
“Young people are united in their calls to end all abuses against Rohingya, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. It is time for the world to listen and take action.”
At the conference, whose theme was “Cultivating and Mobilizing a Rohingya Youth Movement”, Rohingya youth leaders from around the world to discuss a range of social and political issues that affect their communities. These include how to strengthen the movement’s capacity, how to support refugee and IDP communities, and how to build solidarity and create learning opportunities with other civil society allies.
“Rohingya are oppressed in Myanmar today, just as Kachin people are oppressed. We are the same victims. It is time for us to join forces in solidarity to get justice. This youth conference was extremely encouraging. it helped build bridges between communities united in their desire for a life in dignity and safety,” said Hkanhpa Sadan, Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Kachin National Organization.
“What Rohingya are facing today, Karen people have also faced more than 60 years. Massacres, rape, burning of villages, killing of children. When the government and military say the reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya are false, we remember they said the same thing about the same human rights violations against us. That is why we are standing in solidarity with our Rohingya brothers and sisters, and we hope our combined efforts will bring positive change for all our communities.” said Nant Bwa Bwa Phan Karen activist.
China is working through bilateral mechanisms, Secretary Momen said
Bangladesh has said it keeps exploring all possible avenues through bilateral and international mechanisms to send back Rohingyas safely to their place of origin in Rakhine State.
“We want to work in all areas with the same pace with an active trilateral effort with China and Myanmar in place,”
Masud Bin Momen secretary (Asia and Pacific) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefed reporters at State guesthouse Meghna after the second Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) with the Philippines on Tuesday.
He said it will be a very difficult proposition if the Rohingya issue is left with the bilateral front only considering past experiences, reports UNB.
Secretary Momen said Bangladesh, China and Myanmar are moving ahead trilaterally as China is working as a sort of guarantor to send Rohingyas back through bilateral mechanisms.
Responding to a question, he said the issue of “accountability and justice” is a matter of high moral grounds as genocidal acts had taken place; and the international community has a responsibility to address the issue.
On November 14, pre-trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court had authorized the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her investigation will seek to uncover the truth. “My office will now focus on ensuring the success of its independent and impartial investigation.”
Suu Kyi is among several top Myanmar officials named in a case filed in Argentina for crimes against Rohingya Muslims and it shows the Nobel Laureate, for the first time, has been legally targeted over the crisis.
On Nov. 11, the Gambia filed a lawsuit against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice for the southeast asian country’s atrocities against the Rohingya population.
Over the past years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh for refuge, sparking one of the more dire refugee crises of the decade. They continue to remain in camps in Bangladesh, where they are vulnerable to human trafficking and other forms of violence.
Even though the crisis has been ongoing for decades, it’s a crucial time for the lawsuit to be filed, advocates say. And the Rohingya people’s continuing refusal to go back is only testament to the lack of security for them in Myanmar.
“No one has been held accountable,” Akila Radhakrishnan, President of Global Justice Center (GJC), told IPS. “It’s the same forces [that] remain in Rakhine state, they remain kind of [as a] part of the military with no punishment. There’s no feeling that there’s safety and security to go back to Myanmar.”
Radhakrishnan pointed out that even though the lawsuit may be “far away” from when the crisis began, the continued fear of Rohingyas to return to their home shows how deeply the crisis persists.
“I think there’s a recognition of the impossibility of the return of the Rohingya, a solution to the humanitarian crisis,” she said, adding that the lawsuit will push for the Myanmar government to take actions that focus on changing the laws and policies that enabled the genocide.
The lawsuit by the Gambia is supported in large part by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and is being led by Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Gambia Abubacarr M Tambadou, who decided to pursue actions after a recent visit to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, a region where about 900,000 Rohingya refugees are living in camps in that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has termed the world’s biggest refugee camp.
Bangladesh is blocking hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children from accessing meaningful education, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, urging authorities to lift restrictions on schooling in refugee camps.
In a report called ‘Are we not human?’, Human Rights Watch accused Bangladesh of violating the rights of 400,000 school age children who have fled Myanmar and are currently living in the Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps.
“Depriving an entire generation of children of education is in no one’s interest,” Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch told Reuters. “The international community needs to act and demand that Bangladesh and Myanmar change course.”
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since a 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military, which followed attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
The Human Rights Watch report said Bangladesh had banned Rohingya refugees from enrolling in schools outside the camps or taking national exams and also barred U.N. agencies and foreign aid groups from giving formal accredited education.
It accused Myanmar of not agreeing to recognize the use of its school curriculum in the camps.
Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission Chief Mahbub Alam Talukder said it was untrue that children in the camps were not being educated and that there were 4,000 learning centers in the camps.
Two leading figures of the Rohingya campaign in Europe are fearing for their lives after calls for their abduction were circulated in a racist video message.
London-based Maung Zarni and Germany-based Nay San Lwin said they were targeted by Aye Ne Win, a businessman who allegedly financed the genocide against the ethnic group in Myanmar.
In a video circulated on social media, Win urged Myanmar’s intelligence service to launch an Israel-style operation to kidnap the two activists.
He can be seen as saying: “Concerning Maung Zarni and Nay San Lwin, it is high time for Myanmar military intelligence services to launch an Israeli-style kidnap operation that captured Eichmann in South America.
“These creatures should not dare to come to our country. They scream foul from abroad but they need to be tried here [In Myanmar].”
Zarni told Anadolu Agency that he was taking these threats very seriously.
“We are taking this very seriously as it came from one of the richest and most racist men in Myanmar — Aye Ne Win,” he said.
Win, the grandson of Gen. Ne Win, is widely known to be one of the key financiers of the genocidal monk group known as Ma Ba Tha, according to Zarni.
He stated that they have been targeted because he was “the whistleblower of Rohingya genocide” and along with Lwin helped the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Rohingya genocide.
“The [Myanmar’] military-intelligence-run proxy news organizations have been running extremely vitriolic attacks on us – with our pictures as ‘enemies of the state’,” he underlined.
Beijing will do whatever they can to help alleviate the situation and push forward early repatriation, the envoy said
Beijing is playing a role in finding a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis as China shares Bangladesh’s concerns regarding the issue, said Li Jiming, the Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka.
“China is trying to persuade Myanmar all the time that the eventual solution of the Rohingya issue will be beneficial to both the countries (Bangladesh and Myanmar), and I believe that the Rohingya issue will be settled in the end,” he said on Sunday.
The Chinese Ambassador was addressing a seminar, “Finding a way to Peaceful Repatriation of Rohingyas,” organized by English daily Bangladesh Post at the National Press Club in Dhaka, reports BSS.
China cares, China contributes, and China acts in resolving the crisis and with its traditional friendship with Bangladesh and Myanmar, Beijing will do whatever they can to help alleviate the situation and push forward early repatriation, the envoy said.
But he simultaneously added that despite its good relations with Myanmar, Beijing could not lecture “Myanmar what to do” since it is a sovereign country. That requires China to pursue the matter diplomatically following the principle of equality and mutual respect.
“Here I want to make it very clear that, Myanmar is a sovereign country as Bangladesh is. China has no right to lecture Myanmar what to do,” he said.
Jiming said: “It is a well-accepted idea in many countries that China has a huge influence over Myanmar as whatever we (China) say Myanmar will listen and do accordingly.”