The world must not forget about the ongoing genocide against the Rohingya people, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) said today on the anniversary of the start of vicious military-led violence in Rakhine State.
Exactly three years ago, on 25 August 2017, the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar military) and its proxies launched a brutal campaign in Rakhine State, killing thousands of Rohingya people, torching whole villages to the ground, and driving some 800,000 to flee across the border into neighbouring Bangladesh.
“This is a day when Rohingya everywhere remember the genocide and the worst crimes committed against us in our history. Three years ago, the brutal violence in Rakhine State finally made the world sit up and take notice of the decades-long oppression we have suffered in our home country”, said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.
“But just because the headlines have become fewer today, it does not mean that the Rohingya people are no longer suffering. Make no mistake – the genocide is ongoing, and Myanmar’s leaders are still intent on erasing the Rohingya as a people.”
For the some 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State today, life continues to resemble an open-air prison. Rohingya are effectively denied citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law, while laws and policies impose severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, making accessing healthcare, education and the labour market extremely difficult.
Close to 128,000 Rohingya, who were displaced by state-sponsored violence in 2012, continue to live in squalid displacement camps, with limited access to education and other bare necessities. Renewed fighting in Rakhine State between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army has, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, further imperilled the lives of civilians in the region.
Across the border in Bangladesh, there are close to one million Rohingya refugees, the vast majority of whom live in camps in Cox’s Bazaar. While the Bangladeshi government has generously opened its borders to Rohingya refugees, BROUK remains concerns about ongoing restrictions on the refugees’ human rights, including to access education and the labour market, and freedom of movement.
“A whole generation of Rohingya children are growing up in hopeless conditions. Severely traumatised by violence and without access to quality schooling, they see no way of improving their families,” said Tun Khin.
“While Myanmar’s government pays lip service to improving conditions in Rakhine State, in reality they show the same callous indifference to Rohingya as they always had. The international community must continue to push Myanmar to end this genocide before it is too late.”
Despite the well-documented serious human rights violations by the Tatmadaw and others against the Rohingya, not a single person has been meaningfully brought to justice over the past three years. In a positive development, however, momentum behind international justice efforts has grown over the past year.
In November 2019, the Gambia brought a case against Myanmar for violating the Genocide Convention at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In January 2020, the ICJ imposed provisional measures on Myanmar, a legal injunction ordering the country to end all genocidal practices against the Rohingya.
Last year, in November 2019, the International Criminal Court also announced it was launching an investigation against Myanmar over crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.
BROUK has furthermore brought a universal jurisdiction case in Argentina against Myanmar’s military and civilian leadership for their role in the genocide against Rohingya. Universal jurisdiction is the legal principle that some crimes are so horrific that they concern humanity as a whole, and can be tried anywhere regardless of where they were committed. The Argentinean judiciary is currently deciding whether or not to take up the case.
“Rohingya do not want revenge – we want the chance to build a life of dignity, which is only possible if there is justice for crimes against us. The world must support international justice efforts. We call on more states to support the Gambia’s case at the ICJ, and to launch universal jurisdiction cases in their own countries,” said Tun Khin.
“It is shameful that the international community has mostly remained paralysed for three years. We are tired of talking empty talk and promises while nothing improves for our people – we need real action now more than ever.”