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.
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.
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.
Since August 25, 2017, Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox’s Bazar amid a military crackdown on the predominantly Muslim minority state Rakhine
The government is optimistic about implementing its plan to relocate Rohingyas to Bhasan Char after completing further technical assessment by an expert team, a senior government official has said.
The official said the government has not shelved its relocation plan at all on Monday, reports UNB.
He said: “We can do that. It’s [Rohingya relocation] possible.”
UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Steven Corliss said the UN’s first technical assessment mission was scheduled to be done from November 17 to November 19.
He said the UN and the government of Bangladesh have agreed to “postpone” the visit to make sure that the right experts, and all the necessary logistical arrangements are in place.
“We are awaiting confirmation of an alternative date, and are also submitting terms of reference to the government for these onsite visits, which are part of a broader assessment process,” the UNHCR Representative added.
Responding to another question, Corliss said the exact composition of the teams will be defined by the UN objectives and the government’s nod for the visits.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said the technical team is expected to visit the Bhasan Char on December. “They want to ensure some certain issues, and the process will begin after that,” he said.
The recent case lodged by The Gambia with the International Court of Justice against Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya is the first time that rape will be prosecuted as genocide at the court, which is based in The Hague. The case has the potential to enhance feminist international law, while reinforcing the need to carry out the global women, peace and security agenda.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the state counsellor and minister for foreign affairs, will lead Myanmar’s delegation to the International Court of Justice for the first hearings in the case, filed in November. Suu Kyi’s decision to lead the delegation, though reasonable given her position in the government, is nevertheless shocking, given both her previous stature as a woman of peace and the worldwide criticism over the treatment of the Rohingya. More than half of the population of the Muslim ethnic group fled to neighboring Bangladesh amid deadly military operations against them more than two years ago.
Because Myanmar is not a state party to the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, and the United Nations Security Council has been unable to refer the matter of the Rohingya to the ICC, justice for these crimes has remained elusive — until, perhaps, now.
The International Court of Justice case is based on breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948. The convention contains a clause giving the court jurisdiction to resolve disputes over the implementation of the convention. Myanmar continues to deny that a genocide occurred, as well as any wrongdoing by its security forces or widespread sexual violence.
The hearings, scheduled for Dec. 10-12, are to decide if the court will order provisional measures to stop potentially genocidal acts by any government forces or related organizations or the destruction of any possible evidence.
The Rakhine State of Myanmar was historically the Arakan Kingdom, a prosperous state spanning western Burma to parts of the Chattogram Division. The Arakan Court is famously known for patronising the most prominent 17th-century Bengali poet, Syed Alaol (c. 1607-1673), well-known for his masterpiece, Padmavati, a translation of a Hindi epic poem Padmavat by Malik Mohammad Jayasi.
Arakan was conquered by the Burmese Konbaung dynasty in 1784, then ceded to the British as war reparation in 1826 after the first Anglo-Burmese war. When the British annexed all of Burma in 1886, the Arakan province became part of the Province of Burma under British India. Burma, including Arakan, also known as the Rakhine province, was split off from British India in 1937. After 1948, Rakhine became part of the newly independent state of Burma.
During the Second Word War, Muslims known as the Rohingya, inhabiting Northern Rakhine, fought the Japanese on the promise of autonomy by the beleaguered British colonial rulers. Others, mostly Buddhists, supported the Japanese. At the end of colonial rule in 1948, Myanmarisation, or a push for a majoritarian nationalism, despite the existence of some 130 ethnic minority groups in the country, led to a civil war in parts of the country.
In 1973, the military rulers led by General Ne Win declared Arakan as the homeland of the Rakhine people. However, the new dispensation did not recognise the Rohingyas, the majority in Northern Rakhine, as a distinct ethnic community. The 1982 Citizenship Law of Myanmar barred Rohingyas from citizenship. The Muslim Rohingyas were seen, defying history and geography, as intruders from Bengal, and even the label “Rohingya” was banned from the official lexicon.
Myanmar does not have to comply with ICC decisions on grounds it is not party to Rome Statute, says government
Myanmar has rejected an International Criminal Court (ICC) decision to launch an investigation into crimes against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said Friday the ICC has no jurisdiction over Myanmar because it is not a party to the Rome Statute.
The Rome Statute is the founding treaty of the ICC that seeks to protect communities from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
“[The] ICC’s decision is not in accordance with international law,” Htay said.
Recalling that the government and the army set up two independent investigative commissions, Htay said, ”if human rights violations are found, we will act according to the law.”
On Thursday, judges at the ICC approved a prosecution request to investigate crimes against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
Bangladesh is a member state of the ICC, while Myanmar, which is not a party to the Rome Statute, has been accused of committing widespread abuses against Rohingya.
According to Amnesty International, 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.
Myanmar’s government rejected the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said at a Friday night press conference that Myanmar stood by its position that the Netherlands-based court has no jurisdiction over its actions. His statement was the first official reaction since the court on Thursday agreed to proceed with the case.
Myanmar has been accused of carrying out human rights abuses on a massive scale in the western state of Rakhine in 2017 during what it described as a counterinsurgency campaign.
Zaw Htay cited a Myanmar Foreign Ministry statement from April 2018 that because Myanmar was not a party to the agreement establishing the court, it did not need to abide by the court’s rulings.
“It has already been expressed in the statement that the investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” he told reporters in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.
The court’s position is that because Myanmar’s alleged atrocities sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh for safety, it does have jurisdiction since Bangladesh is a party to the court and the case may involve forced deportation.
Last year’s statement charged that the court’s prosecutor, by claiming jurisdiction, was attempting “to override the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”
The 2018 statement also said Myanmar’s position was that it “has not deported any individuals in the areas of concern and in fact has worked hard in collaboration with Bangladesh to repatriate those displaced from their homes.”
However, there still has been no official repatriation of the Rohingya, and human rights activists charge that Myanmar has not established safe conditions for their return.
Sitting on the floor of his makeshift school in the sprawling refugee camp of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, 11-year-old Omar spoke softly as he remembered his mother and father.
“My parents loved me so much. They looked after me very well,” he said.
He explained how his parents were murdered by the Myanmar army in August 2017. Three of his brothers and two of his sisters were also killed.
“When I wake up every morning I start crying. Then I wipe my tears away and I get ready to go to school,” he said.
Two years on, it is still hard to process the brutality of what happened to Omar and his fellow Rohingya who had been living in Myanmar – or Burma as it was previously known.
You would be forgiven for assuming such stories would have brought swift and decisive international action. They did not. Visible progress towards any kind of justice for the minority Muslim group has been painfully slow.
But now we’ve seen three legal developments – seemingly unrelated – which some legal experts are calling a big step forward, and which offer a degree of hope to Rohingya campaigners.
Why aren’t Myanmar’s generals already in court?
UN inspectors said in September 2018 that top officers in Myanmar’s army should stand trial accused of genocide for their brutal security crackdown in Rakhine state the previous year, which drove more than 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.
The easiest way for this to happen would be for the UN Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which prosecutes alleged war criminals.
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”.