Rohingya: The international community must take unified action in order to stop serious human rights violations occurring in Rakhine State, Myanmar

Human Rights Now released a statement on November 14th calling for the international community to take unified action in order to stop the serious human rights violations occurring in Rakhine State, Myanmar.

  1. The persecution of Rohingya people in Rakhine State, Myanmar, is an extremely alarming situation. According to the United Nations, over 600,000 Rohingya migrants have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017. It is alarming that 60% of the Rohingya population (which is said to be about 1,000,000 people) have become refugees. Human Rights Now, a Tokyo-based international human rights NGO, is greatly concerned with the human rights situation of the Rohingya people and the humanitarian crisis that the refugees are facing.

  2. The Rohingya people have been facing discrimination and persecution for a long time now. On October 9th last year, in Northern Rakhine State, an armed group of Rohingya assaulted three police outposts. Military forces responded by a massive “clearance” operation targeting all Rohingya people, reportedly engaging in extra-judicial killings, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention and torture, and setting habitations and mosques on fire. However, both the army and the government denied the existence of human rights violations, prohibited access to the northern zone, and limited the entry of humanitarian goods and media access. Furthermore, Myanmar refused access to a United Nations fact-finding mission created by a UN Human Rights Council resolution, thus hindering an investigation by a fair and neutral third party that could have provided a basis for the punishment of responsible parties.

  3. On August 25th of this year, several attacks by the dissident group “Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army” (ARSA) against police and military facilities were followed once again by widespread military actions by the army of Myanmar against Rohingya people. However, these operations were not aimed at only suppressing the rebel groups, but also included disproportionate and excessive military actions targeting civilians. Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh gave credible evidence of the extreme and brutal human rights violations to which they were subjected, such as widespread killings, violence, rape, and the burning of their villages. Furthermore, there is clear evidence that the destruction of large residential areas by fire, including the destruction of entire villages, led to the obliteration of the fundamental bases of the Rohingya people’s daily life. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid, strongly condemned the military action against the Rohingya people at the beginning of the September session of the Human Rights Council, comparing it to “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

  4. The international community must unite and act to put an end to these human rights violations and humanitarian crisis. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi set forth a policy to recognise the return of the Rohingya people. However, by refusing to allow an independent inspection by the UN or admit the responsibility of the army for serious human rights violations, the root of the problem remains; and we fear that the Rohingya people will suffer once again from mass killings and other cruel human rights violations. It is urgent that their destroyed lands be restored to a decently livable place, and that the responsibility of the army and police forces is fully addressed. 

    The upcoming third meeting of the current UN General Assembly session in New York is expected to adopt a resolution on the Rohingya issue. Last year the General Assembly failed to adopt a resolution on Myanmar, and the international community was unable to speak with one voice. However, it is imperative that the international community display an unequivocally united voice regarding the issue this time and that the upcoming General Assembly resolution clearly condemn the human rights violations perpetrated by the national army and police forces, end any and all military operations directed against the population, enable humanitarian aid and media access to the affected region, speed up efforts to deliver humanitarian aid without delay to refugees, and implement international mechanisms including a UN independent facts-finding mission in order to investigate human rights violations.

    In addition, the president of the UN Security Council released a statement on November 7th regarding the Rohingya situation. In the statement, the president condemned the human rights violations perpetrated by security forces against the Rohingya people and called, inter alia, on the government to stop any further excessive military action as well as emphasising the importance of humanitarian aid. Despite this, the Security Council has not sufficiently responded given the seriousness of the crisis.

In light of the gravity of the situation, 88 international human rights NGO’s around the world came together and released a statement calling for sanctions targeted at persons related to the Myanmar military and for banning the importation of weapons to Myanmar. These measures should be given serious consideration, taking into account further developments of the situation.

Even in the absence of a relevant Security Council resolution, however, every state must adopt a clear stance against any form of military assistance or cooperation with the Myanmar army.

Human Rights Now calls on every state to speak with one voice, release a clear statement of purpose, and take action to condemn and prevent further mass killing, human right violations, and ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state.

At the same time, the urgent situation of refugees, predominantly in Bangladesh, and their need for assistance must be a top priority.

Finally, Human Rights Now strongly calls on the government of Myanmar to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of the crisis to end the human rights violations perpetrated by the military, to enact comprehensive policies in order to end hate speech and discrimination against Rohingya people and Muslims, to implement the recommendations of the Governmental Advisory Commission report led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan released in August in order to rectify the structural causes of discrimination and poverty against Rohingya, and to reexamine the 1982 “Nationality Law”  depriving Rohingya people of their civil liberties.