TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Dec17/02)
8 December 2017
Third World Network

HRC condemns gross violations against Rohingya Muslims
Published in SUNS #8591 dated 7 December 2017

Geneva, 6 Dec (Kanaga Raja) - The UN Human Rights Council, at a special session on Tuesday (5 December), strongly condemned the alleged systematic and gross violations of human rights and abuses committed in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State, notably against persons belonging to the Rohingya Muslim community and other minorities, including women and children.

In its resolution, the Council also condemned the attacks against Myanmar police and military posts carried out on 25 August 2017 and all acts of violence against the security forces.

It stressed that the challenges facing Rakhine State and other areas in Myanmar can be resolved only through peaceful means.

The Council called upon the Government of Myanmar to ensure the protection of the human rights of all persons in Myanmar, including persons belonging to the Rohingya Muslim community and other minorities.

The resolution on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar (A/HRC/ S-27/L.1) was adopted by a vote of 33 in favour, three against and nine abstentions.

Those that voted in favour were: Albania, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

Burundi, China and the Philippines voted against the resolution; Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Kenya, Mongolia, South Africa and Venezuela abstained.

The special session, convened following an official request by Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, was supported by 73 countries (33 member states of the Council and 40 observer states).

In his keynote statement at the special session, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, pointed out that the sheer number of people forced to leave their homes has been staggering.

By 2 December, he said, an estimated 626,000 refugees had fled to Bangladesh. Reports indicate that people are continuing to flee, with some 1,622 people escaping northern Rakhine State since 26 November.

"In other words, it appears that more than half the estimated number of Rohingya living in Rakhine State have been forced to leave their homes and country - and it is simply impossible to assess the number who may have been detained, disappeared, killed or died en route."

According to the High Commissioner, credible reports indicate "widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal attacks" against the Rohingya community by the Myanmar security forces, acting at times in concert with local militia.

He said it is essential to recognise the historical context. The Rohingya community, which claims long-standing roots in Rakhine State, has endured a progressive intensification of discrimination over the past 55 years - and more in the last five years than in the previous 50 all together.

Since the 1970s, there have been several movements of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing mounting persecution. Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law, which also affects other minorities, denies the Rohingya equal access to citizenship.

"This has rendered stateless the vast majority of the Rohingya, and violates their civil and political rights."

Rohingya children have not been issued birth certificates since at least the 1990s - in contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Myanmar ratified in 1991.

The rights chief said in recent years, he had also reported to this Council, and to the Security Council, persistent allegations of serious human rights violations by security forces, including arbitrary arrests and detention, ill- treatment and torture of detainees, and sexual violence.

"Prosecutions for alleged acts of violence against the Rohingya, including sexual violence - whether committed by security forces or civilians - appear extremely rare."

Refusal by international as well as local actors to even name the Rohingyas as Rohingyas - to recognise them as a community and respect their right to self-identification - is yet another humiliation, and it creates a shameful paradox: they are denied a name, while being targeted for being who they are.

"How much do people have to endure before their suffering is acknowledged and their identity and rights are recognised, by their government and by the world?"

Considering the decades of statelessness as well as systematic and systemic discrimination against the Rohingya; policies of segregation, exclusion and marginalization; long-standing patterns of violations and abuses with little or no access to justice and redress; and considering the recent allegations of killing by random firing of bullets, use of grenades, shooting at close range, stabbings, beatings to death, and the burning of houses with families inside; the serious bodily or mental harm inflicted on Rohingyas including children; the subjection to various forms of torture or ill-treatment, being beaten, sexually abused, raped; the forced displacement and systematic destruction of villages, homes, property and livelihoods; considering also that Rohingyas' self-identify as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture, and are also deemed by the perpetrators themselves as belonging to a different national, ethnic, racial or religious group,"given all of this, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?" the High Commissioner said.

"Ultimately, this is a legal determination only a competent court can make. But the concerns are extremely serious, and clearly call for access to be immediately granted for further verification."

The world cannot countenance a hasty window-dressing of these shocking atrocities, bundling people back to conditions of severe discrimination and latent violence which seem certain to lead in the future to further suffering, and more movements of people, he added.

The High Commissioner called on the Council to consider making a recommendation to the General Assembly that it establish a new impartial and independent mechanism, complementary to the work of the Fact-Finding Mission, to assist individual criminal investigations of those responsible.

"We cannot afford to hear that historical and tragic refrain, one more time, that no one knew it would turn out to be like this - what a lie that would be," he said.

In its resolution, the Council urged the Government of Myanmar to take all measures necessary to prevent the destruction of places of worship, cemeteries, infrastructure, and commercial and residential buildings belonging to all people, and to facilitate the rebuilding of those that have already been destroyed.

It called upon the Government of Myanmar to take all measures necessary to provide justice to victims, ensure the full accountability of perpetrators and end impunity for all violations and abuses of human rights, including, in particular, those perpetrated against persons belonging to the Rohingya Muslim community and other minorities, by facilitating a full, transparent and independent investigation into the reports of all violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law when applicable.

Expressing grave concern at consistent allegations of widespread sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, the Council called for investigation of these allegations, for holding those found responsible to account, and for ensured access to long-term health services and psychosocial support for victims of human rights violations, including victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence, killings and other attacks.

It strongly called upon the Government of Myanmar to cooperate fully with the fact-finding mission established by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 34/22 and to grant unfettered access to the fact-finding mission, other human rights mechanisms and the United Nations, and to ensure that individuals have unhindered access to and can communicate with the United Nations and other human rights entities, without facing acts of reprisal, intimidation or attacks or any other type of harassment, or the fear thereof.

It expressed deep concern that humanitarian access remains severely restricted in northern Rakhine State and unpredictable in other parts of Rakhine State.

Noting the initial steps taken by the Government of Myanmar and humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to individuals in Rakhine State, the Council urged the Government of Myanmar to allow full, immediate, safe, unconditional and unhindered access for the United Nations agencies and other international humanitarian actors, including regional organizations such as the Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to carry out needs assessments and to resume delivery of primary and life-saving humanitarian assistance to all affected persons and communities without discrimination throughout Myanmar, and particularly in Rakhine State, including northern and central Rakhine State.

It highly appreciated the efforts of the Government of Bangladesh, strongly supported by the international community, to provide safety and assistance for those who have fled violence, and encouraged the Government of Bangladesh to continue those efforts until conditions in Myanmar are conducive to the safe, voluntary, sustainable and dignified return of those who have fled violence.

The Council urged the Government of Myanmar to immediately address the conditions that lead to mass displacement, including lack of safety and security, to restore food security, access to livelihoods, inclusion and public safety, and to ensure respect for the human rights of the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State in order to take steps to create an atmosphere conducive to the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return to their places of origin in Myanmar of those who have been forcibly displaced, by ensuring that their human rights, including freedom of movement, will be fully respected and by creating the right conditions for them to return to their homes and resume their livelihood activities and income generation without fear, discrimination or restrictions.

It called upon the Government of Myanmar to ensure, in conjunction with international partners and in accordance with international law, the safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return to their ancestral land in Myanmar of all displaced Rohingyas, including refugees and internally displaced persons, and to ensure the human rights of those who return.

It also called upon the Government of Myanmar to immediately start a process for the expeditious verification of refugees and forcibly displaced persons in a time-bound manner that accommodates many refugees' and forcibly displaced persons' lack of documentation.

It welcomed the public commitment of the Government of Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State to the fullest extent and urged the Government to implement them swiftly and in their entirety, to allow reconciliation in Rakhine State and to commence a process of inclusive development meaningful for all communities.

It noted the establishment of the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine.

It called upon the international community and regional organizations to provide support, including humanitarian and development assistance, to the Government of Myanmar for the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, including recommendations regarding an inclusive and transparent citizenship verification process, the provision of documentation for non-citizens and their equal access to essential social services, including education, health care and freedom of movement, and on finding sustainable solutions in building inter-communal harmony towards lasting peace, stability and prosperity for the benefit of the whole population.

It called upon the Government of Myanmar to provide unhindered access for such humanitarian assistance.

The Council encouraged the international community, in the true spirit of interdependence and burden-sharing, to continue to assist Bangladesh in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the forcibly displaced Rohingya Muslims and other minorities until their return to their places of origin in Myanmar and to assist Myanmar in the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected persons of all communities displaced internally within Rakhine State, taking particular account of the vulnerable position of women and children.

It called upon the Government of Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, including by addressing the issue of the statelessness of the Rohingya population by ensuring their equal access to full citizenship and related rights, including civil and political rights, and, to those ends, to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law to ensure its conformity with universally recognized principles and to restore the citizenship of the Rohingya population through an open, fast, voluntary and transparent process of national verification based on past census and other data that leaves no individual unregistered nor hinders their access to essential social services, including education and health care, and, in the event of any dispute, involving independent national and international observers for transparency and accountability.

It also called upon the Government of Myanmar to take all measures necessary, while fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, to counter any incitement to hatred or violence by publicly condemning such acts and holding those who conduct such acts accountable under criminal law, and acknowledged the Government's efforts to promote interfaith dialogue in the country.

It encouraged further efforts to promote inter-communal interfaith dialogue in order to de-escalate tension and foster peaceful coexistence among all ethnic and religious groups in Myanmar.

It called upon the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with and assist the relevant special procedure mandate holders in the discharge of their respective mandates, to provide them with all necessary information requested by them and to give serious consideration to responding favourably to their requests to visit the country in order to enable them to fulfil their duties effectively in the context of the human rights situation of the Rohingya population.

The Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to track progress concerning the human rights situation of Rohingya people, and to provide oral updates, followed by an interactive dialogue, at the thirty-eighth, forty-first and forty-fourth sessions of the Human Rights Council, with a view to reaching a comprehensive solution of the crisis within three years through the full implementation of the present resolution and Council resolution 34/22.

It also requested the High Commissioner to prepare a comprehensive written report on the situation, including on the level of cooperation and access given to the fact-finding mission and other United Nations human rights mechanisms, the implementation of the present resolution, the findings and recommendations of the United Nations system on the situation of human rights of Rohingya people in Rakhine State and recommendations on a future course of action, and to present the report to the Human Rights Council at its fortieth session, and to submit the report to the General Assembly for its consideration.