August 24, 2018

Burma Campaign UK today called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to support the referral of Burma to the International Criminal Court. To date, the British Foreign Office, which claims to be leading the international response to the crisis, has refused to support a referral.

It is now almost a year since the Burmese military began its pre-planned military offensive against Rohingya civilians, using the pretext of attacks on police stations by an armed Rohingya group.

So far, Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military, has paid no price for what he did.

  • 700,000 Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh.
  • Villagers were massacred, shot, burned alive, hacked or beaten to death.
  • Thousands of people were killed.
  • Thousands of homes were burned and later bulldozed.
  • Babies were snatched from their parents’ arms and thrown into fires or rivers.
  • There was mass rape against Rohingya women.

The UN has said what happened was ethnic cleansing and may even be genocide.

Last year British Prime Minister Theresa May claimed that the UK was: “working through the UN and with regional partners to do everything possible to stop this appalling and inhuman destruction of the Rohingya people.”

As Burma is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, and will not refer itself the International Criminal Court, the only way the Court can conduct a comprehensive investigation of violations of international law in Burma is if the UN Security Council makes a referral.

Yet the British Foreign Office, which leads on Burma at the UN Security Council, is still refusing to support referring Burma to the International Criminal Court. This is despite calls from the Rohingya themselves, from the British Parliament, and from human rights and humanitarian organisations.

They are letting Min Aung Hlaing get away with paying no price for what he has done.

Instead, the British government is backing a Burmese government enquiry which is clearly a public relations farce. Rosario Manolo , the head of the Burmese government established enquiry has stated: “I assure you there will be no blaming of anybody, no finger-pointing of anybody…It is not a diplomatic approach, and a very bad approach, in fact, to be doing finger-pointing, blaming, to say ‘you’re accountable’.”

If Britain were to support the UN Security Council referring Burma to the International Criminal Court, and worked to build a global coalition of countries and international bodies in support, it would send the clearest message to Min Aung Hlaing that he cannot continue to violate international law with impunity. It could save lives.

“The British response to the Rohingya crisis has been too weak and indecisive,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “Theresa May needs to turns words into action and support the referral of Burma to the International Criminal Court. It will never be safe for Rohingya to return to Burma as long as Ming Aung Hlaing and his military are allowed to get away with massacres and mass rape.”

A Q&A detailing the British government’s confused and conflicting approach to the Rohingya crisis is available here.


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