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UN envoy: Situation in Myanmar must be referred to ICC

Yanghee Lee warns ill-planned relocation of Rohingya refugees may ‘create new crisis’

GENEVA (BT) – The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar called on Monday for the situation in Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the Security Council, or a state party or group of states parties.

Speaking at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, Yanghee Lee said: “Victims must not be forced to wait in the purgatory of international inaction; if it is not possible to refer the situation to the ICC, the international community should consider establishing an independent tribunal,” Lee said.

Lee said that she is “fearful of an increasingly internationalized situation of the Rohingya, with deportations from India and Saudi Arabia recently, as well as a boat arrival in Malaysia just last week”.

“I am troubled to hear reports from Bangladesh Government officials that in April they plan to relocate 23,000 Rohingyarefugees from the camps in Cox’s Bazar to Bhashan Char, a recently emerged island in the Bay of Bengal.”

“Ill-planned relocation, and relocations without the consent of the refugees concerned have the potential to create a new crisis,” the UN rapporteur warned.

“It is incumbent on the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that this is not brought about,” she said. 

– Conflict between ethnic armed organizations

The UN envoy also voiced her concern over the conflict between ethnic armed organizations in the northern Myanmar state of Shan.

“Despite the four-month unilateral ceasefire declared by the military in December in the north and east of the country, I am increasingly concerned about the conflict between ethnic armed organizations in Shan State,” she said.

“There are recent reports of civilian deaths and thousands of people have been temporarily displaced from their homes over the last few months, with 1,700 people fleeing from Namtu and Hsipaw since 27 February.

“This repeated and ongoing violation serves only to traumatize and re-traumatize adults and children, disrupting their daily lives, education and livelihoods, and impacting on their ability to access healthcare and basic services. This must not continue.”

She reiterated her call to “all parties to conflicts around the country to protect civilians and take precautions, and to end hostilities.”

Two Rohingya refugees accompanied Lee during the conference. 

Hamide Hatun said that her husband and many members of her family were killed by the Myanmar army and urged the international community to bring justice for Rohingya Muslims.

“We want to return to our country in an honored and secure way, and want our full citizenship rights to be granted,” she said. 

Muhip Ullah, the other Rohingya refugee, also called on everybody at the meeting to see their current situation in Cox Bazaar, expressing their expectation from the UN more action than words. 

– Persecuted community

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women, and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed to Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA). 

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.”

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

*Writing by Nilay Kar Onum

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