Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
The Myanmar authorities have done nothing to improve the lives of Rohingya trapped in Rakhine State where they continue to live under an oppressive and genocidal regime, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) said in a new briefing released today.
The briefing shines a light on how Myanmar has failed to comply with provisional measures imposed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in January 2020, which ordered an end to genocidal acts against the Rohingya. Myanmar was required to submit its first report on compliance with these measures on 23 May, although the report has yet to be made public.
“Make no mistake – the genocide against the Rohingya is continuing unabated in Myanmar. The government and military have taken no meaningful steps whatsoever to improve the situation in Rakhine State, where women, men and children continue to suffer a hellish existence,” said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.
“We do not know yet what is in Myanmar’s report to the ICJ, but the facts on the ground speak for themselves. The international community, including the UN Security Council, must redouble their pressure on Myanmar to comply with provisional measures and end the attempts to wipe out the Rohingya as a people.”
“We also urge the Court to make this report public as soon as possible, and for the UNSC to hold public hearings on Myanmar’s compliance with provisional measures. Rohingya should not be kept in the dark about our own fate – we have a right to know what the world is doing to pressure Myanmar to end these crimes.”
Continued violence and oppression
BROUK’s briefing details how the close to 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State continue to face severe oppression by both the civilian government and the military. While the Office of the President in April 2020 issued directives to state actors to comply with the Genocide Convention, in practice authorities have done little to heed the ICJ’s provisional measures.
The situation in Rakhine State has, if anything, worsened since January 2020 through escalating conflict, a ban on mobile internet access in parts of the state, and the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army has escalated this year, displacing tens of thousands of people and killing dozens of Rakhine, Chin, and Rohingya civilians through shelling and landmines.
On 14 May, two Rohingya children – one 11-year-old boy and one 8-year- old girl – were killed in a landmine blast in Buthidaung Township, highlighting the continued devastating toll of the conflict on civilians caught in the crossfire. While Myanmar in May declared a ceasefire to contain the Coronavirus, it has refused to extend it to Rakhine and Chin States.
Myanmar has taken no steps to end the widespread oppression of Rohingya, for whom Rakhine State still resemebles an open-air prison. Rohingya are effectively denied citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law, while laws and policies impose severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, making accessing healthcare, education and the labour market extremely difficult.
In its ruling in January, the ICJ ordered Myanmar to end all genocidal acts “including deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” The system of oppression remains in place in Rakhine State, however, and authorities have made no meaningful efforts to reform it.
Token steps towards accountability
The briefing highlights how authorities have only taken token steps to end the widespread impunity for the security forces who have committed serious human rights violations against the Rohingya.
In February 2020, the Tatmadaw announced it had initiated two Court-
martials to look into killings that took place in Maung Nu and Chut Pyin
villages in northern Rakhine State. Such court martials have failed to deliver
justice in the past, however, as the military justice system in Myanmar lacks the necessary transparency and impartiality to hold its own security forces to account.
In January, two days before the ICJ’s provisional measures order, Myanmar’s own Independent Commission on Enquiry (ICOE) published a 15-page summary of its findings. Alarmingly, the summary glossed over many of the Tatmadaw’s crimes, including of sexual violence, and failed to assign blame to senior officers, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing. ICOE has yet to make its full report available, preventing independent scrutiny of the full extent of its investigation and methodology.
“Myanmar’s own attempts at accountability are nothing but window dressing for the international community. Without genuine justice, there is no question that Rohingya remain at serious risk of further severe human rights violations, including genocidal acts,” said Tun Khin.
“Myanmar has tried to destroy our people for decades, and it is obvious that this government has no intentions of genuinely implementing the ICJ’s provisional measures. The international community must see through this charade and push Myanmar to lift the inhumane laws and restrictions confining Rohingya to their villages in Rakhine State.”
Apart from the case that the Gambia brought to the ICJ, Myanmar is facing scrutiny through other international justice avenues. In November last year, BROUK petitioned courts in Argentina to open a universal jurisdiction case against Myanmar’s civilian and military leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity. In the same month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised an investigation against Myanmar for crimes against humanity.
“The momentum behind international justice efforts now brings a glimmer of hope to millions of Rohingya, but we need more help from the international community. We urge all states to lend their support to the Gambia’s efforts at the ICJ, and to pursue universal jurisdiction cases against Myanmar’s within their own countries,” said Tun Khin.
“The UN Security Council must also stop its shameful politicking over this ongoing genocide. Member States must immediately call for a full referral of the situation in Myanmar to the ICC.”