Treat Myanmar’s actions against Rohingyas as genocide

Fortify Rights urges donors

Diplomatic Correspondent

22 October, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Donor governments seeking to raise one billion dollar in aid for the Rohingyas should acknowledge the crimes perpetrated against the displaced people in Myanmar as genocide and crimes against humanity, Fortify Rights said on Wednesday.  

The United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency will co-host a virtual donor conference today (Thursday ) to raise humanitarian funds for the displaced Rohingyas and host communities.

“Genocide is the root cause of the humanitarian needs, and the governments should acknowledge that,” said Matthew Smith, Fortify Rights Chief Executive Officer.

“If we ever hope to live in a world free from genocide, we have to diagnose it as it’s unfolding. Any failure to address the root crimes will only invite this annual scramble for funds year after year.”

This week, Fortify Rights joined the Refugees International and 33 other organisations in a joint letter urging the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and also calling on the US government to make a determination to root out genocide particularly with regard to the crimes committed against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

“A genocide determination would send a sense of urgency to spur the kind of multi-lateral diplomatic engagement and pressure needed to ensure that Myanmar refrains from committing further atrocities and, ultimately, creates the conditions conducive to the safe, voluntary, and informed return of the Rohingyas to their homeland,” the joint letter said.

Rohingya people have long decried the acts of violence committed against them as genocide.

Unpublished quantitative data collected by Fortify Rights and a team of Rohingya researchers found that 100 percent of Rohingya respondents in Bangladesh believe the Myanmar military is intent on destroying them. The US government has never publicly determined the Myanmar military committed genocide or crimes against humanity.

On October 23, The Gambia will file a “Memorial” in its lawsuit against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, making its case for how the Government of Myanmar is responsible for genocide against Rohingya in Rakhine State.

The same day, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Tom Andrews is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly. In 2016 and 2017, the Myanmar Army led a campaign of massacres, mass rape, and mass arson, forcibly deporting more than 800,000 Rohingya men, women and children to Bangladesh.

Up to 6,00,000 Rohingyas remain in Myanmar and continue to face genocide and other international crimes.

In 2018, Fortify Rights, and later a UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar determined that attacks against Rohingyas in 2016 and 2017 amounted to genocide.

While funding for the international relief effort is vital, the international community must also address the root causes of the crisis, including the disenfranchisement of the Rohingyas and denial of citizenship rights, Fortify Rights said.

Under the Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, the government denies access to full citizenship for individuals who do not belong to certain “national” ethnic groups determined by the Government of Myanmar.

The government relies on an arbitrary and disputed list of 135 recognised ethnic groups that excludes Rohingyas, and the government is disenfranchising Rohingyas from national elections on November 8.

The Government of Myanmar also continues to confine more than 1,25,000 Rohingyas to more than 20 internment camps in five townships of Rakhine State, and it continues to enforce draconian, discriminatory restrictions on the Rohingya people, including severe restrictions on their freedom of movement.

 “The generosity of the international community towards Rohingya relief is crucial and commendable,” said Matthew Smith.

The governments must unite in condemning genocide and mass atrocities. Silence on the nature of these crimes only benefits the perpetrators, he observed.