Date :Friday, November 2nd, 2018 | Time : 15:55 |ID: 76399 | Print

UN warned: any attempt to return Rohingya Muslims would risk more deaths

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SHAFAQNA- The pledge to begin returning the Rohingya comes just days after UN investigators warned of an “ongoing genocide” against the Muslim minority in Myanmar. But, chair of the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, warned that the conditions are not in place for a safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh to Myanmar, and added any attempt would just risk more deaths.

Genocide is still taking place against Rohingya Muslims remaining in Myanmar and the government is increasingly demonstrating that it has no interest in establishing a fully functioning democracy, according to UN investigators.

Marzuki Darusman, chair of the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said last week that thousands of Rohingyas were still fleeing to Bangladesh had faced discrimination, and those who remain “continue to suffer the most severe” restrictions and repression.

“It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place at the moment,” Darusman said.

He said that beyond mass killings, the conflict included the ostracization of the population, prevention of births, and widespread displacement in camps.

“It is an ongoing genocide,” he told a press conference, AFP reported.

“We consider the genocide intent can be reasonably inferred,” he said as he presented the team’s report to a United Nations Security Council meeting.

The conflict has also seen about 390 villages destroyed and 10,000 Rohingya killed, Darusman said.

Myanmar government rejected the UN mission’s findings

The Myanmar government rejected the UN mission’s findings, questioning its independence and pointing out that it had itself established an independent investigative commission made up of Asian diplomats.

Investigators have said senior Myanmar military officials should be prosecuted for genocide in Rakhine state, but the country has rejected these calls, insisting it was defending itself against armed fighters.

Refering the issue to the International Criminal Court in The Hague

The 444-page report, first made public last month, called on the council to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or to create an ad hoc tribunal, as was done with the former Yugoslavia. The explosive report said that Myanmar’s top generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in Rakhine state.

Myanmar has rejected accusations that its military committed atrocities in the crackdown last year that forced 720,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh, Iqna reported.

The Security Council meeting was called by Western powers but opposed by China and Russia, allies who have friendly ties with Myanmar’s military and have regularly shielded the nation from criticism.

Myanmar government is “unwilling” to investigate violence against Muslims

Darusman further condemned what he called the systematic massacre and gang rape of Rohingya Muslims, adding that the government’s denial of the accusations “only strengthens the case that the international community needs to act and accountability cannot be expected from the national processes.”

Darusman’s remarks come as the UN’s special envoy to Myanmar also had previously said that the Myanmar government is “unwilling” to investigate violence against Muslims.

Rapporteur Yanghee Lee said in a report published on her Twitter account on October 8 that the government had taken “limited and insufficient steps” to investigate the atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, press TV reported.

More than 720,000 of stateless Rohingya

More than 720,000 of Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya people fled a military crackdown in August last year, taking shelter in crowded camps in Bangladesh and and bringing with them harrowing tales of rape, murder and arson blamed on the Myanmar army, Guardian noticed.

Rohingya families who fled Myanmar have been living in cramped, makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.

Bangladesh initially proved very welcoming to those fleeing the violence, but the burden of looking after the refugees has become politically contentious in the impoverished country.

Rights groups have warned that returning the Rohingya to Myanmar would condemn them to further reprisals , Aljazeera told.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) estimates at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed between 25 August and 24 September 2017, but fewer than 100 bodies have been uncovered.

Agreement to start returning Rohingya refugees in November

Less than a week after UN investigators warned that a genocide against the Muslim minority was continuing in Rakhine, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to start returning Rohingya refugees in November.

The pledge to begin returning the Rohingya comes just days after UN investigators warned of an “ongoing genocide” against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.

The conditions are not in place for a safe return

The conditions are not in place for a safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh” to Myanmar, he warned, adding any attempt would just risk more deaths.

Many fear returning to Myanmar without guaranteed rights such as citizenship, access to healthcare and freedom of movement – rights that were denied to them long before last year’s crackdown.

Abul Faisal, 42, who fled his home in Maungdaw town in September last year, said there was confusion about who had even been cleared for return. “The authorities in Bangladesh collected names and other details of the Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar, but we were never told why,” he said. “Most importantly, I have not heard of any Rohingya refugee who was asked if he or she wanted to return home to Myanmar. So we do not know how the local authorities got those names of Rohingya for repatriation.”

Somsu Alom lives at Thaingkhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar with his wife and six children. He said his family was desperate to go home but “the situation in Rakhine is still unsafe” for Rohingyas.

The UN says the return of the Rohingya must be voluntary, and conducted in dignity and security.

No one wants them to come back

There is also still widespread discrimination against the Rohingya by Buddhist citizens in Myanmar, and they are widely referred to as “Bengalis” by the government, inferring they are interlopers. Buddhist community leaders and citizens still refer to the Rohingya as terrorists and made it clear that “no one wants them to come back”.

A year after Myanmar’s military launched a campaign of murder, rape, and arson to drive out the the Rohingya, the charred trees are the only visible reminders that the stateless, Muslim population once lived there.

In Inn Din, as in other parts of Rakhine state, the Myanmar government is demolishing areas where thousands of Rohingya lived before fleeing to Bangladesh.

Bulldozers and backhoes are parked beside new, blue-roofed homes, built by a government agency chaired by state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Rohingya replacement with non-Rohingya

During a government-organised media tour of northern Rakhine state late last month, Inn Din village administrator Kyaw Soe Moe told the Guardian the new homes would soon be occupied by “Rakhine, Chin, Bamar, and Hindu people from other parts of the country”.

According to a UN report last month called for Myanmar’s military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide, the purpose of the bulldozing and construction is “the removal of the Rohingya and all traces of them and their replacement with non-Rohingya”.

The Rohingya community has lived in Myanmar for generations, but a 1982 law stripped it members of their citizenship and made most of them stateless. No clear process for reinstating their citizenship has been demonstrated.

Canadian lawmakers recognised that crimes against the Rohingya constitute genocide

In September, Canadian lawmakers have unanimously voted to declare Myanmar’s military actions against the Rohingya people a genocide.

Canadian lawmakers said they “recognise that these crimes against the Rohingya constitute genocide” and urged the UN security council to refer the case to the international criminal court, while also calling for Myanmar’s generals to be investigated and prosecuted “for the crime of genocide”.

An “independent mechanism” has also been set up by the UN human rights council

Another effect of the construction boom is the destruction of physical evidence that could be useful in a future tribunal.

An “independent mechanism” has also been set up by the UN human rights council to collect evidence for a future tribunal.

Unlike the fact-finding mission, which focused on evidence that crimes occurred and were systemic, the independent mechanism will focus on collecting “linkage” evidence, which links individuals to specific crimes. Kingsley Abbott from the International Commission of Jurists said destroying evidence may leave Myanmar’s leaders more vulnerable, because it is treated as a separate offence.

A case against Myanmar’s leaders will not come about quickly

Meanwhile, a case against Myanmar’s leaders will not come about quickly. The independent mechanism has yet to begin its work. When it does, it may reveal that by destroying graves, Myanmar’s leaders have dug holes for themselves.

 

Read more from Shafaqna:

UN: Myanmar generals had ‘genocidal intent’ against Rohingya

Rohingya Muslims Face Difficult Ramadan in Refugee Camps

OIC Pledges Strong Role in Addressing Rohingya Crisis

Myanmar bulldozes what’s left of Rohingya

Amnesty: Myanmar army ‘continuing to force Rohingya Muslim out of the country

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