Friday, December 14, 2018

World needs to show it’s not ready to tolerate barbaric acts in Myanmar: UN expert on genocide

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2018-03-13 20:45:23 BdST

A Myanmar soldier stands near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine state, Myanmar Sept 27, 2017. Reuters

Perplexed by the denial of widespread crimes committed by Myanmar, the UN expert on genocide says “the world needs to show that it is not ready to tolerate such barbaric acts".

“I urge the international community, in particular the UN Security Council, to consider different accountability options,” Adama Dieng, UN Under Secretary-General and Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on the prevention of genocide, said at a press briefing in Dhaka on Tuesday.

After learning about horrifying experiences in Myanmar from Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar, he said Rohingya Muslims have been “killed, tortured, raped, burnt alive and humiliated, solely because of who they are".

“Let us be clear – international crimes were committed in Myanmar,” he asserted.

“All the information I have received indicates the intent of the perpetrators was to cleanse northern Rakhine state of their existence, possibly even to destroy the Rohingya as such, which, if proven, would constitute the crime of genocide,” Dieng said after his visit to the Rohingya camps.

“However, whether or not we consider that the crimes committed amount to crimes against humanity or genocide, this should not delay our resolve to act and to act immediately. We owe this to the Rohingya population,” he said.

The special adviser also put forward three recommendations that include addressing the root cause of the problem, accountability for the crimes that have been committed and protection and support to Rohingyas as refugees while in Bangladesh.

Dieng has never been allowed by the Burmese authorities to visit Rakhine State since 2012 when he assumed the responsibilities.

Reuters file photo

Reuters file photo

From Mar 7 to Mar 13, he visited Bangladesh to assess the situation of the Rohingya population who have crossed the border since the most recent incidents of violence in northern Rakhine State in Oct 2016 and Aug 2017.

He heard “horrifying” stories of what they have endured.

“What I have heard and witnessed in Cox’s Bazar is a human tragedy with the fingerprints of the Myanmar government and of the international community,” he said.

The scorched earth campaign carried out by the Myanmar security forces since Aug 2017 against the Rohingya population was “predictable and preventable”.

“Despite the numerous warnings I have made of the risk of atrocity crimes, the international community has buried its head in the sand. This has cost the Rohingya their lives, their dignity and their homes,” he said.

“I am perplexed by the denial of the widespread commission of serious crimes that has characterized the response of the Myanmar authorities,” the UN expert said urging the international community, in particular the UN Security Council, to consider different accountability options.

He said the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission provide a road map for the Myanmar government. As a priority the stateless status of the Rohingya community must end and the issue of their citizenship be addressed “properly and definitively”.

He also called upon the nations to do more to support Bangladesh in shouldering this responsibility by providing support to the refugees and host communities.

Dieng said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has shown “moral leadership” by giving them shelter, and called upon the leaders of China and India to show “moral leadership” instead of “economic leadership” to solve the crisis.

On the trial of Burmese authorities responsible for the crimes, he said he believed one day this would be tried.

He said both Sudan and Libya were not the parties to the International Criminal Court or ICC, but their genocides were tried at the ICC having been referred by the UN Security Council.

“Nothing to prevent if the Security Council desires to refer a case to the ICC,” he said.

He also referred to the former dictator of Chad Hissène Habré’s case and said maybe, one day, the leaders of ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, will decide to establish an extraordinary chamber to try the perpetrators of Myanmar.

Hissène Habré was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity after 20 years of hiding in Senegal, in the first African Union-backed trial.