It all started ages ago | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 12, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:28 AM, December 12, 2019

It all started ages ago

Denial of citizenship to Rohingyas and their systematic deprivation and violation of basic rights by the Myanmar authorities over the decades were not mentioned by any of the lawyers at the ICJ -- making their arguments of genocidal intent weak, analysts said.

“Genocidal intent was not only in 2016 or 2017 in the military crackdown against the Rohingya. Myanmar took up a genocidal policy since 1962. It was a slow genocide that found its momentum in 2017,” said former ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad.

He said this in regards to the arguments presented by Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other lawyers on the second day of the hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague.

The Gambia, which filed a lawsuit against Myanmar, accusing it of genocide against the Rohingya on November 11, presented its arguments on Tuesday.

Yesterday was Myanmar presented its defence, the salient features of which were that Myanmar military’s attack on August 25 in 2017 was a response to the attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and that there was no sign of ongoing genocide in Rakhine.

Suu Kyi said the Gambia had not taken into account the ongoing internal armed conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military.

She said that Myanmar had taken a number of initiatives for establishing harmony, peace and development in Rakhine state.

Munshi Faiz, chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said even if the incidents since August, 2017 are considered, there are a lot of questions over those.

He then posed some of the more pressing questions. 

“Myanmar army was mobilsed in Rakhine in high numbers for some five months before the August attack by ARSA. Many think it was a staged drama,” he told The Daily Star over phone.

The Rohingyas have been living in Rakhine for generations. They were citizens and had all rights before 1982. In that year, the citizenship bill came into effect. It robbed the Rohingyas of their legal rights as citizens and took away their citizenship.

Restrictions on freedom of movement, denial of basic rights, including education, health, marriage, birth, Rohingya ethnicity -- all were aimed at eliminating the Muslim group, he said.

These all came to the fore after the new citizenship bill was introduced.

“The denial by Myanmar lawyers that there is no ongoing genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine now is also a lie,” Faiz said.

He added that Rohingyas are still denied citizenship, their movements are restricted and their ethnicity is not recognised.

Myanmar has deliberately promoted the racial narratives that caused religious and ethnic conflicts, Munshi Faiz Ahmad said.

There comes an obvious question as to why there is now an armed conflict and that is because Myamar is a state that is oppressive towards its ethnic groups. Rohingyas are the worst victims of it, he said. 

Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, director at the Centre for Genocide Studies at Dhaka University, said Myanmar made no mention of the rapes by the Myanmar army though it was an important element of genocide.

“They focused only on the incidents of 2016 and 2017, but not the slow genocide that has been happening since 1948,” he told The Daily Star over phone from The Hague, where he is attending the ICJ hearing.

If there is no violation of Rohingya rights now, why is Myamar not allowing independent journalists, UN investigators and UN’s Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee to visit  the Rakhine State, he added.

Fortify Rights Senior Human Rights Researcher John Quinley said they have documented how the Myanmar government is trying to erase the Rohingya.

“There is an ongoing genocide in Myanmar…there is an urgent need for provisional measures,” he told The Daily Star over phone from Malaysia.

Barrister Sara Hossain said it was very disturbing to see how Suu Kyi, once an icon of democracy and human rights, was denying the serious forms of human rights violation of the Rohingyas.

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