Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
For immediate release: 24th May
The genocide against Rohingya shows no sign of abating in Myanmar, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) said in a new briefing today, timed to coincide with Myanmar’s duty to report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on how it is preventing genocidal acts against the minority group in Rakhine State.
The briefing details how the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) continues to subject Rohingya to a vicious pattern of abuse and extortion in Rakhine State, where Rohingya are kept in what amounts to an open-air prison, creating intolerable conditions of life. Since the start of 2021, at least 15 Rohingya- including nine infants and young children – have died as a direct result of onerous and illegal travel restrictions preventing access to medical care.
BROUK calls on the international community to redouble efforts to hold the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to account for atrocity crimes, not least since impunity helped pave the way for the military coup on 1 February. The National Unity Government (NUG) should throw its full weight behind international justice efforts, and submit its own report to the ICJ spelling out how it will end persecution against the Rohingya.
“The military coup in Myanmar has again shown the Tatmadaw’s brutality and callousness to the world. At the same time, the genocide against the Rohingya continues at pace, putting the very existence of our people at risk,” said Tun Khin.
“Our briefing exposes how authorities in Myanmar have taken no meaningful steps to amend the laws and policies underpinning the genocide. What is more, abuse, extortion and humiliation of Rohingya continue on a daily basis. The military coup has made the situation even more precarious.”
“Ending the Rohingya genocide and building a democratic Myanmar are closely linked – both involve stopping the Tatmadaw’s reign of terror once and for all. The international community must now more than ever take genuine action to make this a reality. The human cost of failure is too high.”
Genocide case at the “World Court”
The ICJ, as part of the genocide case brought by The Gambia against Myanmar, in January 2020 imposed “provisional measures” on Myanmar – effectively a legal injunction ordering the State to prevent and halt genocidal acts against the Rohingya. Myanmar is required to report periodically to the Court on its compliance with these measures, with the next such report due by 23 May 2021.
The military coup in Myanmar on 1 February has added much uncertainty around the case. It is unclear if the military dictatorship intends to engage with the ICJ, or if it will submit a report on its compliance with the provisional measures by the deadline. Myanmar’s agent in the ICJ case, former State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, has also been placed under house arrest by the Tatmadaw and faces up to 26 years in prison on a range of charges.
An ongoing genocide
BROUK in 2020 documented how despite the ICJ order, Myanmar failed to take any meaningful steps to end the genocide against the Rohingya. As highlighted in today’s briefing, the situation in Rakhine State remains extremely precarious for Rohingya, while the military coup raises the prospect of increased violence.
Laws and policies keeping Rohingya in an open-air prison in Rakhine State – where they are denied citizenship and freedom of movement is extremely limited – remain on the books. The pre-coup civilian government took no meaningful steps to change this situation, and such legal reform is an even more distant prospect following the military coup.
The junta has amended the penal code and tightened already draconian laws, further limiting the already restricted space for freedom of expression and the right to protest across Myanmar. Shortly after the coup, Tatmadaw officials warned residents in Rohingya internment camps in Sittwe that “action would be taken” against anyone daring to take part in anti-military protests.
BROUK has documented how the ongoing denial of medical care and discriminatory travel restrictions imposed on the Rohingya have directly contributed to the deaths of at least fifteen Rohingya since the start of 2021, nine of them young children. The Tatmadaw has also subjected Rohingya to arbitrary extortion and arbitrary detention, while at least one Rohingya man was tortured to death after his arrest by Border Guard Police in September 2020.
Rohingya have privately reported an alarming increase in military presence in Rakhine State since November 2020. At the same time, an uneasy truce between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA) has led to a further deterioration in the situation facing the Rohingya. In parts of the state, Rohingya communities suffer extortion, arbitrary taxation and movement restrictions imposed by both Tatmadaw and AA officials.
Severe internet restrictions in effect off-and-on in Rakhine State since June 2019, have continued since the coup, affecting all aspects of Rohingyas’ lives and making the documentation of human rights violations even more difficult.
“The Rohingya continue to live a hellish existence in Rakhine State. The restrictions on all aspects of our lives are clearly designed to make our lives so unbearable that we have no option but to flee. It is unconscionable that nine young children have recently lost their lives because of the conditions they were living in and the denial of proper medical care,” said Tun Khin.
Strengthen provisional measures
Myanmar’s complete failure to comply with the ICJ’s provisional measures – even before the February coup – calls into question the strength of the Court’s orders. BROUK calls on the ICJ to immediately take steps to strengthen the provisional measures, including by requiring Myanmar to make public all of its reporting. This would ensure greater transparency for survivors and those currently at risk of genocidal acts, and more rigorous scrutiny of Myanmar’s compliance with the measures.
“The military’s brutal crackdown in Myanmar since the coup has again highlighted how crucial justice is for our country. The same generals who led the killings of thousands of Rohingya in Rakhine State are now gunning down peaceful protesters in the streets,” said Tun Khin.
“The ICJ must take steps to strengthen the provisional measures against Myanmar to ensure that they do not end up being a paper promise. The international community must lend the Court its full support – politically and practically – to ensure that this happens.”
For more information, please contact Tun Khin +44 (0)7888714866.