MYANMAR: International Condemnation of Rohingya Genocide

Francesca Mele
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By Francesca Mele

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Security Council session for the Resolutions condemning the Rohingya genocide. Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote on Twitter: “The Rohingya are one of the most discriminated against and vulnerable communities on Earth” and it seems true when we analyse their story. Peaks of violence have been recorded in 1978, 1991-1992, and again in 2016. In 2017 Rohingya numbered one million but after a clash between Muslim and Buddhist factions, 700.000 were forced to flee and Bangladesh welcomed them, even if resources are running out. An humanitarian crisis is underway. 

Rohingya are an ethnic group, mainly Muslim, with their own identity, language and tradition and principally residing in Rakhine State. Myanmar is a rich country of diversity: it is the home of 135 ethnic groups, more than 100 languages are spoken; but from the census of 2014 populations  from certain northern zones of Rakhine State and some villages in the states of Kachin and Kayin were not counted, as reported by Minority rights group international.

They are stateless, as they are not recognised by the government due to a citizenship law dating back to 1982, which distinguished between three categories of citizenship, namely citizenship, associate citizenship and  naturalized citizenship. According to this law, they doesn’t fit for any of these categories, causing a discrimination that has to do with the access to education, to own lands and to enjoy basic political rights. 

Rohingya crisis has broken out in 2017 when armed attacks between a Rohingya group and government army ended up in some deaths for the latter, unleashing brutal repression against the minority group.

“A Human Rights Council resolution in March 2017 called on the international fact-finding mission to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State”. (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/InvestigationAllegedHRViolationsAgainstRohingya.aspx)

Today these violations are denounced by NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but also from the United Nations, that through its reports has confirmed heavy human rights violation, such as arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and deaths in detention. This provided the basis for the approval of the resolution on 27th December in which the General Assembly, in a 134-9 vote with 28 abstentions, urged the Myanmar government on defending Rohingya and minorities rights. Resolutions are not binding, but they are a clear mirror of international community opinion.

Citing the fact finding mission’s documentation, the General Assembly called for an immediate cessation of fighting and hostilities and to put an end to all discrimination and statelessness issue. Myanmar’s UN ambassador, Hau Do Suan, referred to it as example of “selective and discriminatory application of human rights norms designed to exert unwanted political pressure on Myanmar.”

On 11th November 2019, Gambia filed a case before the International Court of Justice against Myanmar and its alleged violation of 1948 Genocide Convention.  The ICJ, the principal judicial organ of United Nations, on 23rd January 2020 delivered its order on the request submitted by Gambia and unanimously solicited The Republic of the Union of Myanmar to take measures in order to prevent and stop the perpetration of all acts, committed by the military and any irregular armed units, within the scope of Article II of Genocide convention (killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and  imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group) and invited the government to take effective measures with the aim to preserve evidence of these allegations.  

  • Is the duty to prevent a norm that should be applied in this case?
  • Which is or are the responsibilities of the international community?
  • Will the international community condemn the non-fulfilment  of the Burmese government?

Suggested Readings

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/12/myanmar-aung-san-suu-kyi-appears-before-icj-in-genocide-case/

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/08/rohingya-muslims-170831065142812.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41566561?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/cm8m1lj50l9t/rohingya&link_location=live-reporting-story

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/23/international-court-to-rule-on-rohingya-genocide-safeguards

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