Press Conference by the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA)
17 October 2016
The systematic suffering by the impoverished Rohingya community who have done no wrong whatsoever and do not justify any ill treatment can and must be brought to a permanent end and it is up to us, as members of the international community, to do so.
This is especially pressing since as of today and according to MYARF, hundreds of houses belonging to Rohingya have been burnt down, at least another 92 Rohingya civilians have been killed by the Myanmar military and more than 10,000 Rohingya have been internally displaced in Maungdaw. Yet the response by international organisations so far regarding this latest spate of violence is anything but satisfactory. The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has merely expressed “grave concern” and appealed for calm and called on all stakeholders to apply maximum restraint and refrain from the use of violence. The response of the EU in particular has been partial, where it merely expresses sympathy with families of the border police officials who lost their lives and pledges to stand with the Burmese regime, without expressing so much as even a feigned apprehension for the Rohingya. Meanwhile, the response of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and consisting of known anti-Rohingya Burmese figures such as U Win Mra and Saw Khin Tint has been nothing short of pathetic. Only a short statement “strongly deploring” the violence perpetrated and expressing condolences and sympathies to families of those killed and injured, without so much as even noting the mass executions of Rohingya, was made.
Following its recent reforms and installation of its first civilian led, democratic government, Myanmar claims to be a fully functioning member of the international community. Such members are expected to treat all of its peoples, including its minorities, with dignity, according them rights enjoyed by peoples of other nations as required by international human rights and humanitarian law. Sadly this remains elusive for the Rohingya in particular, who have been arbitrarily ignored and denied citizenship with its normal rights and protections. Mechanisms are available under International Law to hold Myanmar accountable for their treatment of the Rohingya, or at least, Myanmar should be made to suffer the consequences of failing to provide for their dignity and welfare.
We now have the International Criminal Court or ICC, set up under the Rome Statute in 2002, as a permanent tribunal for this purpose. Under Article 5 of the Rome Statute, there are four international crimes recognised as coming within the court’s jurisdiction, namely genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. CENTHRA believes that the Myanmar regime’s actions against the Rohingya fall under at least two of these crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Nations across the region, particularly members of ASEAN, must cease continuing to stand idly by while the ongoing genocide against a defenceless community, namely the Rohingya, continue to be perpetrated by a fellow ASEAN member state, Myanmar. They must instead take action.
Even before Myanmar was accepted as a member of ASEAN, concerns had been raised, particularly by Malaysia and Indonesia, with respect to its treatment of the Rohingya community. This cannot be realised by insisting on adherence to the principle of non-interference. As such, ASEAN member states need to collectively agree to the suspension of this principle on the basis of the urgent need to protect the Rohingya, and immediately intervene by demanding a complete halt on the part of the Myanmar regime of any further activities undertaken by it that contribute towards the escalation of violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine state. Such an insistence must be followed up by ensuring the complete and final dismantlement of all systematic measures in place within Myanmar denying the Rohingya rights and dignities enjoyed by all other peoples of this world, such as citizenship, access to resources, freedom of movement and being free to perform lawful and beneficial undertakings such as obtaining education, marriage and the like.
As the Rohingya are mainly Muslims, the OIC must go beyond a mere declaration of grave concern and its human rights organ, the IPHRC must take immediate action by forming a special committee to investigate and document the ongoing mass murders and systematic discrimination, as well as issuing its own condemnations for use as eventual evidence before the ICC.
The UNHRC, as the principal UN human rights organ, with the responsibility for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe, also has a role to play in this regard by issuing a resolution urging the UNSC to take action, as a preliminary step towards securing the eventual UNSC resolution referring Myanmar’s actions to the ICC..
We at CENTHRA fervently believe that with the undertaking of the abovementioned actions by all responsible stakeholders, namely immediate intervention by ASEAN as well as international human rights bodies such as the IPHRC and UNHRC, as well as immediate action by the UNSC to stop systematic discrimination, oppression, mass extra-judicial killings, displacements and restrictions perpetrated against the Rohingya will result in a just outcome in favour of the affirmation of rights and dignity of the Rohingya to a peaceful coexistence as equals with their other brethren in Myanmar. Let us hope and pray that this can be realised within our lifetimes and let us undertake due initiatives towards securing that outcome.
Media Statement by Azril Mohd Amin, Lawyer and Chief Executive, Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA), Putrajaya, 17 October 2016.