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.
A Rohingya group has strongly rejected a joint statement by a coalition of rebels in Myanmar in which the persecuted Muslim community was described as “Bengali”.
Mohammed Ayyub Khan, president of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), termed the joint statement as “baseless, falsification and misrepresentation of the word Rohingya”.
A coalition of rebel groups — the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army — said on Thursday they are ready to provide international courts with evidence of war crimes by the Myanmar military between 2009 and 2019 against ethnic people, including “Bengali Muslims”, referring to the Rohingya Muslim community in the western Rakhine state.
“But the irony is that the statement mentioned the word Bengali instead of Rohingya,” Khan said in a statement, adding that the statement “hurts the feelings of Rohingya in particular and Muslims in general”.
He urged the rebel groups — which have been fighting against the Myanmar army in Shan and Rakhine state — to “concentrate their energies in their struggle against the Burmese [Myanmar] army instead of the concocted campaign against Rohingya”.
“We are Rohingya Muslim, not Bengali Muslim,” Khan told Anadolu Agency.
Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim community in Rakhine state of Myanmar, has long been facing systematic persecution and genocide by the military, according to several UN reports.
Amnesty International said that more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women, and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Judges at the international criminal court (ICC) have authorised a full-scale investigation into allegations of mass persecution and crimes against humanity that forced at least 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh.
The ruling, which sets a significant precedent in expanding the jurisdiction of the war crimes court, is the second move against Myanmar this week at international tribunals in The Hague.
On Monday, a submission was made by the Gambia to the international court of justice (ICJ) accusing Myanmar of genocide through the murder, rape and destruction of communities in the country’s western Rakhine state.
The ICC decision, announced on Thursday, follows a request by the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, earlier this year for a formal investigation into alleged ethnic cleansing since 2016.
Myanmar is not a party to the Rome statute that established the ICC, but its neighbour, Bangladesh, has accepted the court’s jurisdiction.
By declaring that the ICC exercises jurisdiction over crimes where part of the alleged criminal conduct – in this case mass deportation – takes place on the territory of a state party, the ICC has extended its international law-enforcement role.
A similar argument has been presented at the ICC on behalf of Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee to neighbouring Jordan, which, like Bangladesh, is a signatory to the Rome statute.
In its decision on Thursday, the ICC authorised the prosecutor to “proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction in the situation in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh/Republic of the Union of Myanmar”.
In a highly unusual move, the tiny West African nation of The Gambia on Monday filed a lawsuit against Myanmar, accusing it of perpetrating a genocide on ethnic Rohingya Muslims which forced hundreds of thousands to flee the Asian nation.
The Gambia, with the full support of the 57-member Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), filed the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’ leading court in dealing with disputes between nations.
“The Gambia hopes by this case, and the OIC hopes by this case, to obtain a judgment from the International Court of Justice — the highest legal authority in the international community, that Myanmar is guilty of the crime of genocide against the Rohingya people,” said Paul Reichler, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who is leading the Gambian legal team.
Such a ruling could take years. In the interim, the lawyers are seeking what is known as “provisional measures” — an order demanding Myanmar stop harming the Rohingyas while the court considers the full case. The judges at The Hague-based court could rule on that as early as next month.
“We are hopeful to get that kind of protection for the Rohingya people very early in the case as a provisional measure so that the genocidal activities that we are seeking to end do not continue during the lawsuit,” Reichler told VOA.
Starting in August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled a scorched-earth campaign unleashed by the Myanmar military in response to attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine state that killed a dozen police officers. Survivors crossed the border into Bangladesh where they gave accounts of massacres, rape, murder and villages burned to the ground.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Gambia filed a case Monday at the United Nations’ highest court accusing Myanmar of genocide in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority and asking the International Court of Justice to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately.”
Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Gambia’s justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, told The Associated Press he wanted to “send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right before our own eyes.”
Myanmar officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Myanmar’s military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.
The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.”
The mission also said in its final report in September that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017, after security forces began a campaign of murder in the area.
The head of the UN has called on Myanmar to take responsibility for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees and work towards their safe return to the country from Bangladesh.
A wave of refugees began fleeing Myanmar in late August after its response to an attack by Rohingya militants on more than 20 police posts that the government said left 12 members of the security forces dead.
Amnesty International said security forces then went on to carry out a “targeted campaign of widespread and systematic murder, rape and burning”, which has been described by some as widespread ethnic cleansing.
More than 600,000 people fled the violence, bringing the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to around 900,000.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was speaking at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and said Myanmar should deal with the root causes of why so many Rohingya people fled the country.
Mr Guterres said that he is “deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar, including Rakhine [where the refugees have fled from] state, and the plight of the massive number of refugees still living increasingly in difficult conditions”.
He added: “It remains, of course, Myanmar’s responsibility to address the root causes and ensure a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Rakhine state, in accordance with international norms and standards.”
With the influx of the Rohingya refugees two years ago after a military crackdown by the Myanmar army, WFP’s operations have drastically increased
The World Food Program (WFP) governing body, the executive board, has visited Bangladesh to see the agency’s humanitarian response for families living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, and support to the host communities.
Led by the President of the Executive Board, Hisham Mohamed Badr of Egypt, the delegation comprised of representatives from Australia, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Poland, and Switzerland, read a press release.
“As members of the Executive Board of WFP, we were here to learn about how the WFP is carrying out its mandate in achieving Zero Hunger in one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and also providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance to nearly one million people in Cox’s Bazar,” explained Ambassador Badr.
“We were pleased to hear from both the Government of Bangladesh and United Nations partners of the exemplary cooperation with WFP on the ground,” he added.
With the influx of the Rohingya refugees two years ago after a military crackdown by the Myanmar army, WFP’s operations have drastically increased. Currently, the agency provides food assistance to 85% of the camp residents, through either in-kind food or an e-voucher scheme. With the latter, families receive monthly entitlements on a pre-paid assistance card and use them to buy a variety of foods at WFP-contracted outlets. E-vouchers greatly improve their access to a more diverse range of foods, while encouraging production of food locally and stimulating the local economy.
Rights groups and NGOs say male rape victims are too ashamed to talk about their ordeal and they have been largely overlooked.
Some Rohingya men and boys who escaped Myanmar’s military campaign two years ago have said they were sexually abused by security forces.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslim minority fled to Bangladesh in the wake of the brutal campaign led by Myanmar military in August 2017.
Since then many of them, who live in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, have suffered in silence, unable to share their trauma, because of extreme shame and stigma.
“They took me into an open space in a valley nearby and beat me up badly. Then I was raped, just like they would rape a woman, they kept me there till 4 in the morning,” a 41-year-old Rohingya told Al Jazeera.
“The very thought of this brutal experience makes me go into severe depression, I feel so traumatised. I go through much mental anguish and pain most of the time. It’s unbearable,” he added.
Research by the US-based Women’s Refugee Commission in Myanmar also indicates, “there was systematic targeted premeditated sexual violence committed against men and boys, while they were in Myanmar.”
A 45-year-old man said he was sexually assaulted by Myanmar troops in 2006, since then he has also suffered from chronic depression.