Asia - Pacific

Myanmar must follow ICJ order on Rohingya: UN official

International community must pressure government to follow any decision by court, says Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee

Md. Kamruzzaman   | 24.01.2020
Myanmar must follow ICJ order on Rohingya: UN official

DHAKA, Bangladesh

A top UN representative is urging the international community to pressure Myanmar to obey any decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding alleged genocide and human rights abuses perpetrated by its army against the Rohingya community.

"The international community should be alert to make sure that Myanmar does not evade any responsibility and must abide by the order issued by the International Court of Justice," Professor Yanghee Lee, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said Thursday while addressing the media in Bangladesh's capital.

The UN's top court later announced its verdict, ordering Myanmar to take all measures in its power to prevent genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority.

"Myanmar must ensure that its military or any irregular organizations or groups subject to its control do not commit any acts in first point or acts of conspiracy to commit genocide," it said.

Condemning Myanmar's repeated negative approaches to various UN initiatives to investigate the situation in Rakhine state, Lee added that by denying her entry there as UN representative, Myanmar actually incurred its own loss.

"My only regret is that Myanmar did not allow me to enter the country and I did not have the opportunity to be engaged with Myanmar authorities as well as affected Rakhine state," she said.

Had Myanmar allowed her to visit Rakhine, she would also be able to report on any progress made by Myanmar authorities there, "so it is in fact a loss for Myanmar.”

Failure of the UN

Lee also expressed her frustration over the failure of the UN concerning the Rohingya crisis.

"Unfortunately, the UN Security Council fails to refer the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

"The UN Security Council is really not fulfilling its obligation. I think we must continue to put pressure on the council to do its duty in the Rohingya crisis,” she added.

Shame to China, Russia

In reply to a question about the partial role of China and Russia in the Rohingya issue and continuous support to Myanmar by the two global actors, Lee termed the matter "shameful" and "regretful".

"It is really regretful and shameful for these two states for not playing their role to curb human rights violations in Myanmar," she said.

Recalling the proper role for a powerful country, she said "China cannot be a global leader without respecting human rights."

"The country must respect human rights in Rakhine state. That means it must seek justice for abuses against Rohingya in Myanmar."

Reforms in UN system

In analyzing the controversial role of China and Russia in the Rohingya issue, Lee said it is not the result of the failure of the UN to convince or change the mentality of these two permanent members of the Security Council.

"It's a matter of how the UN Security Council was set [up] in the middle of the last century," she said, adding the council must carry out reforms on how it deals with "serious cases of human rights violations.”

She also criticized the council’s veto power system.

Ad-hoc tribunal

Lee said she will recommend the formation of an ad-hoc tribunal for ensuring the accountability of those found to be involved in genocide and human rights violations in Rakhine state.

The tribunal could be similar to what was established to prosecute individuals who bore the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law as was done regarding Sierra Leone’s civil war.

“It will be complementary. The victims can submit their pleas,” she said, adding she would present the proposal in her final report to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

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