Bangladesh had no alternative but to allow Rohingyas in the country when they faced atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said today.
General people had a lot of emotion when Rohingyas were killed and their houses burnt and when they ran across the border of Bangladesh for life, the secretary said while addressing a public lecture on Rohingya at Brac auditorium in Dhaka today.
“It was a very difficult decision. We had in mind the consequences at the national level. But we also had to consider international obligations,” Shahidul Haque said.
Some 750,000 Rohingyas fled brutal military crackdown in Myanmar since August 2017 and joined here some 300,000 other Rohingyas who had left previous waves of violence in Rakhine.
They have been denied citizenship and basic rights like freedom of movement, education and health since 1982.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a bilateral deal on Rohingya repatriation in November 2017, but Rohingyas refused to return to Rakhine despite two attempts over the last two years, saying that the environment is not conducive yet.
Myanmar also did not allow the UN investigators, independent journalists and also rejected the ruling by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it has jurisdiction for probing the forcible deportation of Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
Recently, Gambia, on behalf of the 57-member Organization for Islamic Conference (OIC) filed a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest court of the UN. Human rights groups in Argentina also filed a case with its national court.
“Myanmar has failed in all fronts – in creating conducive environment in Rakhine as well as ensuring accountability,” Shahidul Haque said at the event.
ICC can hold the individual perpetrators accountable, while the ICJ can hold accountable the state. Also, the USA, Canada and European Union imposed sanctions on some of the top army officials of Myanmar.
“I hope Myanmar will be under serious pressure now,” the foreign secretary said.
Bangladesh wants to pursue accountability as well as bilateral way of solving the crisis, he said, adding: “Of course, repatriation is always our priority.”
The public lecture titled ‘justice and accountability for Rohingya’ was organized by the Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) of Brac University.
The event was attended by academics, diplomats, representatives from UN and NGOs.