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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

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18 September 2018

MORNING 

18 September 2018

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar after hearing an oral update by the Mission’s Chair Marzuki Darusman.

Mr. Darusman reminded that the attacks launched on August 2017 against the Rohingya people in Rakhine state had led to a mass exodus of three-quarters of a million people to Bangladesh and deaths of at least 10,000 people.  At the core of every incident was the extreme brutality of the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, which enforced a vision of a Bamar-Buddhist nation in which the Rohingya had no place.  The Mission had concluded that in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states, the underlying acts of crimes against humanity had been committed, as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at civilian populations.  With respect to war crimes, non-international armed conflicts had existed in Kachin and Shan states for the entire period under review and in Rakhine state since August 2017.  Much of the conduct that amounted to crimes against humanity on the part of the Tatmadaw and other security forces would satisfy the criteria for war crimes.  In the case of the Rohingya, facts were considered in light of the definition of genocide in international law.  The acts of the Tatmadaw and other security forces fell within four of the five categories of genocidal acts and all the circumstances were such as to warrant an inference of genocidal intent.

Speaking as the concerned country, Myanmar rejected the Fact-Finding Mission because it would not contribute to the Government’s efforts to bring about national reconciliation, peace, and inclusive and sustainable development in Rakhine state.  The report did not reflect the Government’s efforts to end ethnic conflicts that had ravaged the country since its independence in 1948.  Instead of encouraging integration, the report seemed to encourage the disunity of the nation.  The Government had established the Independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate allegations of human rights violations, and to seek accountability and reconciliation.  The authorities shared deep sympathy for the displaced persons, particularly women and girls, and gave high priority to their repatriation.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers condemned the inhumane treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and noted with great concern the findings of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.  They called on Myanmar to repeal all discriminatory laws and practices against Rohingya Muslims and to allow the return of all Rohingya refugees.  The allegations of political mass killings, gang rapes and sexual violence, and the burning of Rohingya villages, along with the evidence supporting genocidal intent, warranted an investigation into the liability of senior Myanmar military officials for genocide.  Given that Myanmar was unwilling to ensure accountability, speakers called for an urgent referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.  Other speakers regretted that the Fact-Finding Mission’s report contained a single type of source, which could hardly be considered objective.  The problems in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states were direct consequences of the past British colonial policies, which the report did not take into account at all.  They said the problem in Rakhine state was a complicated historical and ethnic issue which could not be solved overnight, but only through dialogue and cooperation.
 
Speaking in the discussion were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Union, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Canada, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Thailand, Slovenia, Estonia, Malaysia, France, Sweden, Pakistan, Switzerland, Germany, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Finland, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Russian Federation, Austria, Netherlands, Japan, Croatia, Spain, China, Czech Republic, Australia, Venezuela, Georgia, Iran, Costa Rica, Iraq, Bangladesh, Belgium, Greece, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Iceland, Poland, Ireland, Norway, Turkey, Slovakia, New Zealand, Jordan, Viet Nam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Nepal, Algeria, Maldives, and Afghanistan.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Human Rights Watch, (in a joint statement with Amnesty International), Human Rights Law Centre, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia, Center for Reproductive Rights, Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship, International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Now and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The Council will next hold a general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (A/HRC/39/64)

Presentation of the Report by the Chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, introducing the report, said that in March 2017, the Council had decided that circumstances of recent allegations of human rights abuses in Myanmar, in particular Rakhine state, had to be established and entrusted the Mission to do it.  As soon as the Mission was constituted, the west of Myanmar literally went up in flames.  Attacks launched on August 2017 against the Rohingya people in Rakhine state had led to a mass exodus of three-quarters of a million people to Bangladesh and deaths of at least 10,000 people.  The Mission had visited Cox’s Bazar at the start of their work.  At the core of every incident was the extreme brutality of the Myanmar military (known as the Tatmadaw).  Its operations were grossly disproportionate to any military objective.  It enforced a vision of a Bamar-Buddhist nation that dominated the other 135 ethnic minority groups, in which the Rohingya had no place.  The Mission verified destruction resulting from Tatmadaw operations in numerous sites across the three states.  Emblematic events in Kachin and Shan states were also looked at.

The village Min Gyi was completely destroyed, men were systematically killed, and children were shot and thrown into the river or onto a fire.  Lists carefully compiled by Rohingya volunteers in the refugee camps suggested that 750 men, women and children died that day.  Another feature of Tatmadaw operations was sexual violence.  Its scale, cruelty and systematic nature revealed that rape was used as a tactic of war.  During the 2016 and 2017 clearance operations, 80 per cent of rape survivors who were interviewed said they had been gang raped, and of those, over 40 per cent had been subjected to mass gang rape.  Underlying such atrocities was the pervasive exclusionary and discriminatory rhetoric targeting minorities.  Over 200 churches had been destroyed since June 2011 in Kachin and Shan states.  Rohingya were denigrated as “illegal immigrants”, “Bengalis”, and “kalar”, which meant “dark” or “dark-skinned”, another term that denoted foreignness.  The Rohingya were persecuted, from birth to death and the same system would await any Rohingya who returned.  There could be no repatriation without concrete human rights guarantees, including citizenship.  There was no law or institution in Myanmar that was above the Tatmadaw.  Its supremacy was guaranteed in the Constitution and its members enjoyed complete impunity for their actions.

The Mission had concluded that in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states, the underlying acts of crimes against humanity had been committed, as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at civilian populations.  With respect to war crimes, non-international armed conflicts had existed in Kachin and Shan states for the entire period under review and in Rakhine state since August 2017.  Much of the conduct that amounted to crimes against humanity on the part of the Tatmadaw and other security forces would satisfy the criteria for war crimes.  In the case of the Rohingya, facts were considered in light of the definition of genocide in international law.  The acts of the Tatmadaw and other security forces fell within four of the five categories of genocidal acts and all the circumstances were such as to warrant an inference of genocidal intent.  The report named six individuals with control over the operations.  The list was headed by Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, who had been at the helm of the Tatmadaw since 2011.

There had already been eight ineffective inquiries into the situation in Rakhine state alone since 2012 and now the Government had appointed a ninth.  The new Commission of Enquiry said that its purpose was to combat the “false narratives of the international community”.  The Government and the Tatmadaw were pressuring Karen people to denounce the Mission’s report.  The authorities were not seeking the truth so the impetus for accountability had to come from the international community.  The Fact-Finding Mission recommended a five-point framework for accountability: an international judicial mechanism, an independent mechanism to conduct criminal investigations and prepare for prosecutions, a properly resourced office to support the work of the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur, a trust fund to address the needs of victims, and a short-term mechanism to ensure that there was no gap.  In conclusion, Mr. Darusman said that the Government of Myanmar did not want to cooperate with the Mission, which had found crimes that shocked the human conscience.  It was now up to distinguished members of the Council to take actions commensurate with the gravity of the facts that had been presented.

Statement by Myanmar

Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, rejected the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar as it would not contribute to the Government’s efforts to bring about national reconciliation, peace, and inclusive and sustainable development in Rakhine state.  The Government had made it clear that it would not be able to accept the Mission’s mandate and its findings.  Instead of encouraging integration, the report seemed to encourage the disunity of the nation, dividing between national races.  However, the Government did not condone the violation of human rights and stressed that action would be taken if there was sufficient evidence.  

At the recommendation of the Advisory Board for the Implementation of the Recommendations on Rakhine State, Myanmar’s Government had established the Independent Commission of Enquiry, tasked with investigating allegations of human rights violations and related issues following the terrorist attacks with a view to seek accountability and reconciliation.  Myanmar felt the report did not reflect the Government’s efforts, which had striven to end ethnic conflicts that had ravaged the country since its independence in 1948, and to bring peace with a myriad of other ethnic armed groups.  Myanmar shared deep sympathy for displaced persons, particularly women and girls, and the Government was giving a high priority to their repatriation.  The prevention of hate-speech toward a Member State based on unverified information and prevention of inflaming mistrust among communities should start from within the Council.  A constructive and cooperative dialogue was important for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Interactive Dialogue

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the inhumane treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and noted with great concern the findings of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.  The Organization called on Myanmar to repeal all discriminatory laws and practices against Rohingya Muslims and to allow the return of all Rohingya refugees. European Union was appalled by the findings of the Fact-Finding Mission, which pointed out to possible genocide in Rakhine state, stressing that the Council had to take on its responsibility to follow-up urgently on those extremely grave findings.  How did the Fact-Finding Mission see the interactions between the proposed accountability mechanism and the International Criminal Court? Liechtenstein stressed that a referral to the International Criminal Court was urgently needed by the United Nations Security Council, given that Myanmar was unwilling to ensure accountability.  What were the views of the Fact-Finding Mission on the new accountability option through a formal investigation by the International Criminal Court?        

Lithuania remained deeply worried about the continuous erosion of the freedom of expression in Myanmar, and called on the authorities in Myanmar to immediately release two Reuters journalists who had been investigating the Inn Din massacre of the Rohingya, and to cease the harassment of other journalists and civil society activists. Canada stated that the allegations of political mass killings, gang rapes and sexual violence, and the burning of Rohingya villages, along with the evidence supporting genocidal intent, warranted an investigation into the liability of senior Myanmar military officials for genocide. United Kingdom noted that the Fact-Finding Mission’s report was a damning verdict on the culpability of the Tatmadaw for ethnic cleansing and possible crimes against humanity in Rakhine state in Myanmar.  How could the international community best ensure that any accountability process was transformative, victim-centred, comprehensive and inclusive?

Kuwait said that the present report highlighted many abuses against minorities in Myanmar, pointing to ethnic cleansing across the country.  Five Special Rapporteurs had presented recommendations to improve the situation in Myanmar so all knew the actions that needed to be done. Thailand said it would continue to work with Myanmar alongside the Association of South-East Asian Nations to build mutual trust among local communities.  It would also assist Bangladesh in addressing its on-going humanitarian crisis. Slovenia welcomed the recent ruling of the International Criminal Court Pre-Trial Chamber regarding the Court’s jurisdiction over the deportation of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh.  Given the widespread impunity and lack of humanitarian access, how could the civilian population be assisted?

Estonia continued to call for the referral of the situation in Myanmar by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court.  It also strongly supported the mechanism put forward in the European Union’s resolution on Myanmar, which would be adopted at this session. Malaysia said that the report confirmed its worst fears about the systematic persecution of the Rohingya.  The Council had to continue to engage with Myanmar and Myanmar needed to fully implement the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations, allow safe return of Rohingya and establish accountability. France said that the report confirmed the nature of accusations, including charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, which fell under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  What linkages did the Mission have with the Special Envoy?

Sweden said that as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, it had repeatedly called for the Security Council to consider a referral of the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.  The Human Rights Council needed to follow-up on the Mission’s recommendation to establish an independent accountability mechanism. Pakistan said that vitriolic anti-Muslim hatred remained a common feature in Myanmar’s public discourse, only serving to isolate and criminalise the Muslim Rohingya population.  The international community needed to take a stand to bring the catastrophe to an end and assist Myanmar in addressing the root causes of its problems. Switzerland firmly condemned the killing of the Rohingyas and asked that the perpetrators be brought to justice.  Switzerland called upon Myanmar’s authorities to respect the freedom of expression of individuals who tried to report about the situation, such as journalists, and also asked them to guarantee the Mission full access to the country.

Germany appreciated the willingness of Bangladesh to shelter Rohingya refugees within its borders.  Germany asked what the possibilities could be for the new mechanism to establish more evidence on the chain of command that led to the atrocities in Myanmar. Republic of Korea noted its regret that Myanmar did not cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and encouraged the Government to engage constructively in the discussion on the findings and recommendations in the report.  Republic of Korea would do their part to resolve issues in Myanmar, including expanding their humanitarian assistance to the region. Philippines said it had not supported the establishment of the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.  However, the Philippines would continue to support efforts to hold a constructive dialogue with Myanmar and welcomed the Association of South-East Asian Nations’ Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster, which provided assistance to displaced persons without discrimination.

Indonesia called on the Government of Myanmar to ensure that the newly established Independent Commission of Inquiry would undertake a full, transparent and independent investigation in line with Myanmar’s commitment to act against perpetrators in accordance with the law.  Indonesia also urged Myanmar to immediately create conditions for the return of Rohingya refugees in safety and dignity. Finland said it was appalled by the reported patterns of rape and sexual violence, and the indications of children being subjected to and having to witness serious human rights violations.  What steps should be taken to protect witnesses cooperating with the new mechanism once established? Denmark regretted the refusal of the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission, which meant that its views could not be reflected in the report.  Denmark strongly supported the establishment by the Council of a mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence, and to prepare case files.

Saudi Arabia commended the Fact-Finding Mission for its efforts and stressed that the question of Myanmar was a high priority for the Government of Saudi Arabia.  The atrocities committed by Myanmar’s armed forces could amount to the crime of genocide against the Rohingya Muslims. Tunisia noted that the catastrophe that had befallen the Rohingya Muslims required the Council to take steps to protect them and other minorities in Myanmar.  In light of such grave violations, the international community should immediately take measures to pressure the Government of Myanmar to shoulder its obligations. Russian Federation regretted that the Fact-Finding Mission’s report contained a single type of source, which could hardly be considered objective.  The problems in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states were direct consequences of the past British colonial policies, which the report did not take into account at all.

Austria was concerned about crimes committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states by the Tadmadaw, which might constitute war crimes, including the possible inference of genocidal intent.  The ruling of the International Criminal Court that it could exercise jurisdiction over deportation and enforced transfer of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh was welcomed. Netherlands said that the report offered a solid basis to undertake steps towards ensuring accountability.  The Security Council had the authority to refer the entire case to the International Criminal Court and when it did, fellow members were called on to refrain from using their right to veto.

Remarks by the Chair and Members of the Fact-Finding Mission

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, thanked all speakers for their comments and interventions.  All the statements fell in three main categories, one concerning methodology, the second concerning the nature of atrocities, and the third concerning accountability and the future.  The Fact-Finding Mission had submitted a report outlining its work over the past year.  Regarding the methodology, some of the questions would be more beneficial to be addressed at the end of the session.  The basic methodology recognized by the United Nations and accumulated over the years was followed in the report and the Mission stood by the findings.  The Mission did not entangle itself in the history, as history was literature.  The context showed that over the past 20 years, the Council had found the imperative to appoint five Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar.  Therefore, the accumulated information was there.  However, following the mass exodus of 750,000 Rohingya on 25 August 2017, the Mission was forced to look into it.  The geographical scope was established so the whole country was looked at.  Why had the internal circumstances in Myanmar not been resolved over the past 25 years?  In a way, the events from 25 August 2017 were a tragedy waiting to happen.  Any rebuttal against the methodology was not a rebuttal against the report; it was a rebuttal against the United Nations.

RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Member the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said the Mission had not relied on only one source, but it had also used testimonies, which were all verified, as well as satellite imagery and physical marks.  There were forensic and military experts working on this.  Concerning sexual violence, in any independent mechanism there had to be a capacity to investigate and create files.  Any prosecutorial body had to have the capacity to investigate sexual violence crimes.  Psycho-social assistance had to be provided.  The United Kingdom’s proposal on drafting a protocol to interview victims was welcomed, as the same victims were approached by different organizations.

CHRISTOPHER DOMINIC SIDOTI, Member the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, welcomed and endorsed the statement of Indonesia calling for a holistic approach.  Accountability was seen as an essential element in a holistic approach.  There was a need for double tracks, both ensuring accountability as well as humanitarian assistance.  The recommendations of the report addressed such a comprehensive approach.  Concerning the International Criminal Court, the decision taken in relation to jurisdiction was welcomed.  However, the decision did not allow for a comprehensive approach.  It dealt with one issue - deportation - and with one part of the population - the Rohingya - and with a tiny part of the State’s territory - northern Rakhine.  The decision of the International Criminal Court made an imperative that the Security Council take a comprehensive approach towards accountability.  Since there was no cooperation with the Government of Myanmar, this was the only forum where they could engage with them.  The statement of the Government of Myanmar contained noble principles, but practice was going against them.  For 70 years, the Tatmadaw had sowed disunity.  Peace could not be built on continuing impunity.

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, responding to a statement that only Muslims were interviewed and that the report was one-sided, said that the report contained over 400 pages and that page nine enumerated different ethnic groups which had been interviewed.  Not only had people in Cox Bazaar been interviewed, but also the Kachin and Shan diaspora in Thailand and Malaysia.  Concerning witness protection, protocols on the protection of witnesses had been observed.  Facts spoke on behalf of the victims.

Interactive Dialogue

Japan noted that Myanmar should carry out investigations and take appropriate measures to respond to the alleged human rights violations.  It urged the Government and the military of Myanmar to cooperate with the international community by providing necessary information, and to enable a safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation of refugees. Croatia regretted that the Government of Myanmar had chosen not to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and the Special Rapporteur.  Accountability had to exist; deliberate targeting of civilians and scorched earth campaigns could not be justified.  None of that would lead to national reconciliation. Spain condemned the crimes documented in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states in Myanmar, and called for the protection of victims in line with international humanitarian law.  It supported the call to determine the responsibility of Myanmar’s military leaders who had allegedly committed crimes against humanity and war crimes. China noted much progress in the economy and the domestic peace process in Myanmar in the past several years, adding that it would continue to support Myanmar in following its chosen path of development.  The problem in Rakhine state was a complicated historical and ethnic issue which could not be solved overnight, but only through dialogue and cooperation.  

Czech Republic said Myanmar needed to address the issue of statelessness and amend controversial laws misused against the media and civil society.  Czech Republic asked how the international community could address the issue of how campaigns of hate and dehumanisation escalated inner conflicts within the population. Australia called on Myanmar’s Government to find a solution to the case of reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, which would lead to their release.  Australia was interested to hear the Mission’s views on how the international community could support unity and accountability in Myanmar. Venezuela said that Myanmar actively cooperated with the Council and the country’s efforts to find unity should be supported.  Politicised mandates did not provide the proper climate to address human rights violations and those mandates should be banned.

Georgia remained alarmed by the ongoing human rights violations in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states and was concerned about the intimidation of human rights defenders.  Georgia welcomed the establishment of independent mechanisms to consolidate and analyse evidence of crimes and violations, facilitating fair and independent criminal proceedings. Iran opposed any approach to human rights stemming from double standards, selectivity and politicisation, which were cornerstones of country specific resolutions.  With that said, however, Iran expressed its deep concern over the continued human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar, particularly against the Rohingya Muslims.

Costa Rica said it could not hide its deep concern about the findings of the Fact-Finding Mission, especially when hearing that there were reasonable grounds to believe that this amounted to ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Costa Rica welcomed the recommendations of the Mission, including setting up an accountability mechanism. Iraq expressed concern regarding the report’s findings and condemned all violations against the Muslim Rohingya minority.  The Government of Myanmar was called on to adopt more inclusive policies to restore peace among communities. Bangladesh said that six months ago the question was how the Mission would respond to the Myanmar authorities’ demand of concrete evidence.  The final report provided an unambiguous response; atrocities with genocidal intent had been perpetrated against the stateless Rohingyas since 2016.

Belgium was alarmed by the report’s references to crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The International Criminal Court’s decision to open a preliminary examination into the deportation of the Rohingya people was welcomed. Greece deplored the serious deterioration of the security, human rights and humanitarian situation, the exodus of over 722,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, and the subsequent depopulation of the northern Rakhine state. Montenegro was extremely concerned over findings pointing to crimes against humanity and possible genocide as well as sexual- and gender-based violence.  The report deserved the firm and immediate response of the Security Council.

Luxembourg remained concerned about the continued abuse of human rights in Myanmar and about the violence against the Rohingya and other minorities, which could amount to crimes against humanity.  In order to put an end to impunity for those crimes, Luxembourg called for the implementation of an independent international mechanism on Myanmar. Iceland said that it was dismayed that the persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar appeared to be continuing, which indicated that the Myanmar security forces were acting with complete impunity.  It fully supported the ongoing discussions on how the international community could ensure accountability through trials in national and international courts. Poland underlined that the only sustainable way to improve democracy and respect for human rights in Myanmar, as well as to mitigate the refugee crisis, was engagement in a genuine dialogue with the Government of Myanmar.  What was the way to ensure a constructive and positive coordination between mechanisms set up at the international level and the Myanmar Commission of Inquiry?

Ireland shared the concern of the Fact-Finding Mission with regard to the treatment of ethnic minorities by the Myanmar security forces.  It was time to end the impunity and Ireland called on Myanmar to identify those responsible for the committed atrocities and bring them to account. Norway called on Myanmar to ensure the full protection of all civilians without discrimination, and to strengthen democratic institutions, good governance and the rule of law.  Norway also called on Myanmar and Bangladesh to ensure the implementation of the repatriation agreement of 23 November 2017. Turkey stated that the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, and their reintegration in Rakhine state was the only way forward to reach a lasting solution to the crisis.  Turkey would continue to support Myanmar to strengthen peace and harmony, and to spread prosperity and provide equal opportunities to all of its people.

Slovakia was shocked that there was sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials regarding their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine state.  Myanmar’s authorities had intensified their atrocities in recent months. New Zealand supported the report’s unambiguous finding that conditions were not right for the return of the Rohingya and implored the international community to ensure that returns only occurred when appropriate protections were in place and conditions allowed for a safe and voluntary return. Jordan called upon Myanmar to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and the Office of the High Commissioner.  War crimes were condemned as they forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee to Bangladesh.

Viet Nam shared the concern over the prolonged conflict and displacement.  Myanmar was encouraged to promote reconciliation and firmly fight hate and violence.  The commitment of Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state was welcomed. Lao People’s Democratic Republic said that as a neighbouring country, it had been closely following the situation in Rakhine state.  While sharing concerns of the international community on the humanitarian situation in Rakhine, this very complex issue had to be solved based on the reality on the ground. Nepal appreciated the efforts of Bangladesh and the international community in assisting the Rohingya refugees.  When the situation of gross violations of humanitarian law and human rights occurred, the Council had to hear the voice of humanity and be spurred into action.

Algeria reiterated its deep concern about the continuation of violations against the Rohingya community in Myanmar.  It reiterated its call on the Government of Myanmar to take all measures to investigate those violations, and to put an end to impunity, whereas it called on the international community to provide more support to the refugees. Maldives condemned in the strongest terms the systematic violations committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar, and called on the Myanmar authorities to cease all atrocities and hostilities committed against the Rohingya and to allow the safe return of the thousands who had fled the violence. Afghanistan stressed the need to address the root causes of the crisis in Myanmar, such as ensuring the civil and political rights of Rohingyas and their right to citizenship, education, work and livelihood.  Afghanistan joined the call to end impunity and to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations.

Human Rights Watch, in a joint statement with Amnesty International, stated that given the gravity of the findings of the report, the Council needed to send a clear and united message that those responsible for the crimes committed in Myanmar would face justice.  Without accountability, such crimes were likely to be repeated, and they clearly warranted a referral to the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Laws Centre welcomed the Australian Government’s support for an independent accountability mechanism on Myanmar.  It called on the Australian Government to also implement other recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission, such as targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s senior military officials. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia noted that the situation of the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar continued to deteriorate.  It was imperative that the Council urgently set up a mechanism to collect and preserve evidence, and to prepare case files for prosecution.

Centre for Reproductive Rights. said that the systematic discrimination against the Rohingya was reflected in the barriers to accessing healthcare.  Recent reporting revealed that the Myanmar Government was denying medical care and blocking humanitarian aid to the remaining Rohingya population. Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship condemned the conviction of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Ooo for investigating a massacre of Rohingya by the Myanmar Army.  The Yangon court had sentenced them to seven years’ imprisonment, under a repressive colonial era law. International Commission of Jurists said it had monitored justice and human rights in Myanmar for over five decades and it affirmed that the Mission’s report necessitated immediate action.  A unified Council resolution was needed to establish an International Impartial and Independent Mechanism.

Human Rights Now said that its investigative report in January 2018 in the Cox Bazar refugee camps attested to violations of international criminal and human rights law.  The accounts of interviewees supported the findings that the Myanmar security forces had committed crimes against humanity and war crimes. Christian Solidarity Worldwide said that the persecution of Rohingya by Myanmar’s military since August 2017 was the severest human rights and humanitarian crisis in the country since its independence in 1947.  The Government was called on to allow unhindered access to the United Nations and end the culture of impunity.

Concluding Remarks

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, in his concluding remarks, said that the international community had insisted on a dialogue with Myanmar for 15 or 20 years, and now was the time for action.  With regard to an independent investigation into allegations of army abuse by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Chair said that he hesitated to describe instances where scepticism about the ASEAN Human Rights Commission had been raised, and invited the independent investigation to meet and discuss the situation with the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Member of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said that until 2012 the relationship between the ethnic Rakhine and the Rohingya had been quite amicable, but in 2012, a campaign of hate against the Rohingya had started.  It had been undertaken through the social media, media, community networks, and charismatic individuals, and had created an atmosphere of hate which had allowed what had happened to the Rohingya to occur without much opposition.  The Fact-Finding Mission was in discussions with Facebook, including on forms of regulation versus self-regulation.  The return of refugees to Myanmar must be safe, voluntary and dignified, stressed Ms. Coomaraswamy, noting with concern that satellite images showed that in most of the Rohingya villages, not a tree was not standing, and wondering what they would return to.  Furthermore, the citizenship issue had not been resolved, and discrimination continued.  Accountability and humanitarian assistance must not be an either or, she said, both must be present, and the leadership of Tatmadaw must be held accountable for Myanmar to truly heal.

CHRISTOPHER SIDOTI, Member of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, thanked Bangladesh again for its extraordinary generosity in relation to the Rohingya.  In relation to the International Criminal Court, he agreed that there was no need for duplication and explained that the Fact-Finding Mission was proposing a mechanism that would be complementary and would work on collecting documentation and evidence.  The Myanmar military must get out of politics and the economy.  It must become the professional army of Myanmar, or become confined to history as nothing more than an armed ethnic group.  “For the Tatmadaw, time’s up”, concluded Mr. Sidoti.
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