The international community, including the UN, has failed to protect the Rohingyas in Rakhine where they faced atrocity crimes, Adama Dieng, UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said yesterday.
“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 population of Myanmar their lives, their dignity and their homes,” he said.
“We all have failed. This is a collective failure,” Dieng, who arrived in Bangladesh on March 7, said at a press conference at the Liberation War Museum in the capital.
“Unless there are tangible changes made within Myanmar to address the root causes of the problems, and hold accountable those responsible for the crimes against the Rohingyas, the risk of new violence, the risks of atrocity crimes being committed against the Rohingyas is considerable,” Dieng said.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after Myanmar security forces began a crackdown in Rakhine on August 25 last year. The new arrivals joined some 300,000 others who had fled previous atrocities in Rakhine where the Rohingyas are deprived of citizenship and basic rights though they lived there for decades.
“Let us be clear: international crimes were committed in Myanmar. Rohingya Muslims have been killed, tortured, burnt alive and humiliated, solely because of who they are,” said Dieng, who visited the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar and met ministers and members of the civil society and the diplomatic community in Bangladesh.
“All the information I have received indicates that 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,” he said.
While the crimes would be determined by the court, he said, this should not delay the resolve to act immediately to hold the perpetrators of the atrocity crimes accountable.
According to the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes prepared by UN in 2014, the term “atrocity crimes” refers to three legally-defined international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The UN Secretary-General's Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect have distinct but complementary mandates to work together to advance national and international efforts to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as well as their incitement.
Dieng said the UN has plans to collect evidence of genocide on the Rohingyas through a judicial investigation.
“The judicial commission can make a legal determination and say what happened is genocide in Rakhine,” he told journalists, urging the international community, in particular the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to consider different “accountability options”.
“The world needs to show that it is not ready to tolerate such barbaric acts…there must be accountability for the crimes that have been committed.”
Asked how Myanmar's suspected genocide is referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) when the country is not a party to the ICC, while China and Russia may use their veto powers against it, Dieng said Sudan and Libya were not state parties to the court but the international crimes in those countries were referred to the ICC by the Security Council.
“So nothing will deter if the SC [Security Council] refers it to the ICC,” he said, emphasising that international pressure on Myanmar is critical in this regard. Regional bodies like ASEAN can also work on it, he said.
He hopes China will play its role as a permanent member of the UNSC.
“I cannot but simply invite China and India to use their leverage because it is not simply about the Rohingyas, but it is about humanity. It is about saving lives.
“We cannot sacrifice our moral leadership. I expect both India and China to show that moral leadership. It is not only about economic leadership, political leadership, but today more than ever we need to show moral leadership.”
Dieng said the UN Security Council is responsible for peace and security, and that it has five permanent members having veto powers.
“We should not use that veto when it is about protecting population against genocide.”
Dieng said there are groups, including in Africa, who are standing for the cause of the Rohingyas.
“Don't be surprised in near future how vast movement would be there in support of the Rohingya. That day, be China be India, who are developing their relations in Africa and other parts, will think twice and understand this is simply about humanity.”
He lauded Bangladesh for its moral leadership in sheltering the Rohingyas, and called on the international community to do more to support Bangladesh in shouldering the responsibility by providing support to the refugees and the host communities.
The UN's top official on preventing genocide also said majority of the Rohingyas want to return to Myanmar, but only when they are able to do so in safety, dignity and with access to the basic rights including citizenship.
“So far, the Myanmar authorities have shown no genuine efforts to allow this. In fact, refugees continue to cross the border.”
He said under the present conditions, returning to Myanmar will put the Rohingya population at risk of further crimes, and that the international community has a responsibility to protect them from the risk of further atrocity crimes.
“However, accepting the current status quo would be a victory for those who planned the attacks. We must not accept either of these scenarios.”
Meanwhile, Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday said he raised the issues of atrocities and genocide against the Bangalis by the Pakistani forces on 25 March, 1971 and during the Liberation war.
He made the comment during a meeting with Dieng at the secretariat yesterday, says a ministry statement.