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Archive for the ‘Wonder Land of Burma’ Category

Rohingya hail UN ruling that Myanmar act to prevent genocide

January 23, 2020

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nations’ top court on Thursday ordered Myanmar to do all it can to prevent genocide against the Rohingya people, a ruling met by members of the Muslim minority with gratitude and relief but also some skepticism that the country’s rulers will fully comply.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice came despite appeals last month by Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the judges to drop the case amid her denials of genocide by the armed forces that once held the former pro-democracy champion under house arrest for 15 years.

Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, president of the court, said in his order that the Rohingya in Myanmar “remain extremely vulnerable.” In a unanimous decision, the 17-judge panel added that its order for so-called provisional measures intended to protect the Rohingya is binding “and creates international legal obligations” on Myanmar.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomes the court’s order and “will promptly transmit the notice of the provisional measures” it ordered to the U.N. Security Council, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Diplomats said the U.N.’s most powerful body is not expected to take any action until it sees how Myanmar is implementing the court’s order. While the court has no ability to enforce the orders, one international law expert said the ruling will strengthen other nations pressing for change in Myanmar.

“Thus far, it’s been states trying to put pressure on Myanmar or using their good offices or … diplomatic pressure,” said Priya Pillai, head of the Asia Justice Coalition Secretariat. “Now, essentially for any state, there is legal leverage.”

The orders specifically refer to Rohingya still in Myanmar and thus did not look likely to have an immediate impact on more than 700,000 of them who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in recent years to escape Myanmar’s brutal crackdown.

Even so, Yasmin Ullah, a Rohingya activist who lives in Vancouver and was in court for the decision, called it a historic ruling. “Today, having the judges unanimously agree to the protection of Rohingya means so much to us because we’re now allowed to exist and it’s legally binding,” she told reporters on the steps of the court.

But asked if she believes Myanmar will comply, she replied: “I don’t think so.” Myanmar’s legal team left the court without commenting. Later, its foreign ministry said in a statement that it took note of the ruling, but repeated its assertion that there has been no genocide against the Rohingya.

The court sought to safeguard evidence that could be used in future prosecutions, ordering Myanmar to “take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related” to allegations of genocidal acts.

At the end of an hour-long session in the court’s wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice, judges also ordered Myanmar to report to them in four months on what measures the country has taken to comply with the order and then to report every six months as the case moves slowly through the world court.

“I think this is the court maybe being much more proactive and … careful in acknowledging that this is a serious situation and there needs to be much more follow-up and monitoring by the court itself, which is which is quite unusual as well,” Pallai said.

Rogingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh welcomed the order, which was even supported by a temporary judge appointed by Myanmar to be part of the panel. “This is good news. We thank the court as it has reflected our hope for justice. The verdict proves that Myanmar has become a nation of torturers,” 39-year-old Abdul Jalil told The Associated Press by phone from Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar.

However, he too expressed doubts that Myanmar would fully comply. “Myanmar has become a notorious state. We do not have confidence in it,” Jalil said. “There is little chance that Myanmar will listen.”

Rights activists also welcomed the decision. “The ICJ order to Myanmar to take concrete steps to prevent the genocide of the Rohingya is a landmark step to stop further atrocities against one of the world’s most persecuted people,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Concerned governments and U.N. bodies should now weigh in to ensure that the order is enforced as the genocide case moves forward.”

The world court order for what it calls provisional measures came in a case brought by the African nation of Gambia on behalf of an organization of Muslim nations that accuses Myanmar of genocide in its crackdown on the Rohingya.

The judges did not decide on the substance of the case, which will be debated in legal arguments likely to last years before a final ruling is issued. But their order to protect the Rohingya made clear they fear for ongoing attacks.

At public hearings last month, lawyers used maps, satellite images and graphic photos to detail what they called a campaign of murder, rape and destruction amounting to genocide perpetrated by Myanmar’s military.

The hearings drew intense scrutiny as Suu Kyi defended the campaign by her country’s military forces. Suu Kyi, who as Myanmar’s state counselor heads the government, was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy and human rights under Myanmar’s then-ruling junta.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

In August 2017, Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

Suu Kyi told world court judges in December that the exodus was a tragic consequence of the military’s response to “coordinated and comprehensive armed attacks” by Rohingya insurgents. Thursday’s ruling came two days after an independent commission established by Myanmar’s government concluded there are reasons to believe security forces committed war crimes in counterinsurgency operations against the Rohingya, but that there is no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, said the panel’s findings were “what would have been expected from a non-transparent investigation by a politically skewed set of commissioners working closely with the Myanmar government.”

At December’s public hearings, Paul Reichler, a lawyer for Gambia, cited a U.N. fact-finding mission report at hearings last month that said military “clearance operations” in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state spared nobody. “Mothers, infants, pregnant women, the old and infirm. They all fell victim to this ruthless campaign,” he said.

Gambia’s Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou urged the world court to act immediately and “tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people.”

Anna Roberts, executive director of Burma Campaign UK, called the order “a major blow to Aung San Suu Kyi and her anti-Rohingya policies.” She urged the international community to press her to enforce the court’s order.

“The chances of Aung San Suu Kyi implementing this ruling will be zero unless significant international pressure is applied,” Roberts said. “So far, the international community has not been willing to apply pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi over her own appalling record on human rights.”

Court to rule in case accusing Myanmar of Rohingya genocide

January 23, 2020

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nations’ highest court is set to rule Thursday on whether to order Myanmar to halt what has been described as a genocidal campaign against the country’s Rohingya Muslims.

The International Court of Justice heard a case brought by the African nation of Gambia on behalf of an organization of Muslim nations that accuses Myanmar of genocide in its crackdown on the Rohingya.

At public hearings last month, lawyers for Myanmar’s accusers used maps, satellite images and graphic photos to detail what they call a campaign of murder, rape and destruction amounting to genocide perpetrated by Myanmar’s military.

The hearings drew intense scrutiny as Myanmar’s former pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi defended the campaign by military forces that once held her under house arrest for 15 years. Suu Kyi, who as Myanmar’s state counselor heads the government, was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy and human rights under Myanmar’s then-ruling junta.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

In August 2017, Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.

Suu Kyi told world court judges in December that the exodus was a tragic consequence of the military’s response to “coordinated and comprehensive armed attacks” by Rohingya insurgents. She urged judges to drop the genocide case and allow Myanmar’s military justice system to deal with any abuses.

Thursday’s ruling comes two days after an independent commission established by Myanmar’s government concluded there are reasons to believe security forces committed war crimes in counterinsurgency operations against the Rohingya, but that there is no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out.

The report drew criticism from rights activists. Pending release of the full report, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the panel’s findings were “what would have been expected from a non-transparent investigation by a politically skewed set of commissioners working closely with the Myanmar government.”

At December’s public hearings, Paul Reichler, a lawyer for Gambia, cited a U.N. fact-finding mission report at hearings last month that said military “clearance operations” in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state spared nobody. “Mothers, infants, pregnant women, the old and infirm. They all fell victim to this ruthless campaign,” he said.

Gambia’s Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou urged the world court to act immediately and “tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people.”

The world court’s orders are legally binding but it relies on the United Nations to add political pressure, if necessary, to enforce them. The court is expected to take years to issue a final ruling in the case.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi defends Myanmar army in genocide case

December 12, 2019

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Nobel Peace Prize winner and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi denied Wednesday that Myanmar’s armed forces committed genocide, telling the United Nation’s top court that the mass exodus of Rohingya people from the country she leads was the unfortunate result of a battle with insurgents.

The image of the former pro-democracy icon appearing before the International Court of Justice to defend the army that kept her under house arrest for 15 years was striking. Suu Kyi, who as Myanmar’s state counselor holds an office similar to prime minister, was awarded the 1991 peace prize in absentia for championing democracy and rights under the nation’s then-ruling junta.

Myanmar’s accusers have described a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide that drove more than 700,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh. Addressing the world court in The Hague in her role as Myanmar’s foreign minister, Suu Kyi calmly attempted to refute allegations that army personnel killed civilians, raped women and torched houses in 2017.

She said the allegations stemmed from “an internal armed conflict started by coordinated and comprehensive armed attacks … to which Myanmar’s defense services responded. Tragically, this armed conflict led to the exodus of several hundred thousand Muslims.”

Rohingya representatives and rights group said they were appalled by Suu Kyi’s testimony. “The world will judge their claim of no genocide with evidence,” said Mohammed Mohibullah, chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights. “A thief never admits he is a thief, but justice can be delivered through evidence.”

The African nation of Gambia brought the legal action against Myanmar on behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Gambia alleges that genocide occurred and is still ongoing. It requested an emergency legal hearing asking the International Court of Justice to take action to stop the violence, including “all measures within its power to prevent all acts that amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide” in Myanmar.

Suu Kyi insisted that Gambia provided “an incomplete and misleading factual picture” of what happened in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, saying developments in one of Myanmar’s poorest regions were “complex and not easy to fathom.”

She detailed how the army responded on Aug. 25, 2017 to attacks by insurgents trained by Afghan and Pakistan extremists. Suu Kyi said the armed forces had tried “to reduce collateral damage” during fighting in 12 locations. Conceding that excessive force might have been used and that one helicopter may have killed “non-combatants,” she said Myanmar is investigating what happened and should be allowed to finish its work.

“Can there be genocidal intent on the part of a state that actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes soldiers and officers who are accused of wrongdoing?” she asked the court. Rights groups joined Rohingya representatives in slamming the claims Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s legal team made in The Hague.

George Graham, humanitarian advocacy director at Save the Children, said Suu Kyi’s remarks “fly in the face of all the evidence gathered by the U.N., and the testimony our own teams have heard from countless survivors.”

“Rohingya families have faced patterns of unimaginable horrors in a campaign of violence. Children and their parents have been systematically killed, maimed and raped,” he said, adding that “the government of Myanmar has failed at every turn to punish those responsible.”

Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin, accused Suu Kyi of trying to downplay the severity of crimes committed against the Rohingya and “wouldn’t even refer to them by name or acknowledge the scale of the abuses. Such denials are deliberate, deceitful and dangerous.”

“The exodus of more than three quarters of a million people from their homes and country was nothing but the result of an orchestrated campaign of murder, rape and terror,” he said. The U.S., meanwhile, slapped economic sanctions on four Myanmar military officers suspected of human rights violations. It sanctioned Min Aung Hlaing, commander of Myanmar’s armed forces, over allegations of serious rights abuses. Deputy commander Soe Win and two other military leaders, Than Oo and Aung Aung, were also targeted.

“There are credible claims of mass-scale rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by soldiers under Min Aung Hlaing’s command,” a U.S. Treasury statement said Tuesday. The court’s hearings are scheduled to end on Thursday, when Myanmar and Gambia will have 90 minutes each to wrap up their cases.

Cook reported from Brussels. Associated Press reporter Suzauddin contributed to this story from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

UN investigator: Genocide still taking place in Myanmar

October 25, 2018

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Genocide is still taking place against Rohingya Muslims remaining in Myanmar and the government is increasingly demonstrating it has no interest in establishing a fully functioning democracy, U.N. investigators said Wednesday.

Marzuki Darusman, chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said thousands of Rohingya are still fleeing to Bangladesh, and the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 who have stayed following last year’s brutal military campaign in the Buddhist-majority country “continue to suffer the most severe” restrictions and repression.

“It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place at the moment,” he told a news conference Wednesday. Darusman said the requirements for genocide, except perhaps for killings, “continue to hold” for Rohingya still in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state. These include causing serious bodily harm, inflicting conditions designed to destroy the Rohingya, and imposing measures to prevent births, he said.

Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador, Hau Do Suan, called the fact-finding mission “flawed, biased and politically motivated” and said the government “categorically rejects” its inference of “genocidal intent.” Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special investigator on human rights in Myanmar, said she and many others in the international community hoped the situation under Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi “would be vastly different from the past — but it is really not that much different from the past.”

Lee added later that she thinks Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former political prisoner who now leads Myanmar’s civilian government, “is in total denial” about accusations that the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar raped, murdered and tortured Rohingya and burned their villages, sending over 700,000 fleeing to Bangladesh since August 2017.

“The government is increasingly demonstrating that it has no interest and capacity in establishing a fully functioning democracy where all its people equally enjoy all their rights and freedoms,” Lee said. “It is not upholding justice and rule of law” that Suu Kyi “repeatedly says is the standard to which all in Myanmar are held.”

If this were the case, she said, fair laws would be applied impartially to all people, impunity would not rein, “and the law would not be wielded as a weapon of oppression.” Suu Kyi’s government has rejected independent international investigations into the alleged abuses of Rohingya and has commissioned its own probe. The government has also rejected the report by the fact-finding mission, which said some top military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya.

“The Myanmar government’s hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle,” Darusman told reporters. “Its continued denials, its attempts to shield itself under the cover of national sovereignty and its dismissal of 444 pages of details about the facts and circumstances of recent human rights violations that point to the most serious crimes under international law” strengthens the need for international action because “accountability cannot be expected from the national processes,” he said.

Darusman and Lee spoke ahead of a Security Council meeting that began with a vote on whether Darusman should be allowed to brief members. He was given a green light with the minimum nine “yes” votes from the U.S., Britain, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Ivory Coast, Kuwait, Peru and Poland. China, which is Myanmar’s neighbor and ally, Russia and Bolivia voted “no” and Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused supporters of the briefing of “torpedoing consensus” in the council and forcing council members “to engage in loud-speaker diplomacy.” He said the fact-finding mission didn’t go to Rakhine state, called its report “too biased,” and said the international community should help Myanmar and Bangladesh resolve the Rohingya refugee problem.

Chinese Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu later echoed Nebenzia, calling the report’s conclusions “lopsided” and “not credible” and saying the international community should work on returning the refugees. Lee stressed that their “repatriation is not possible now.”

“I will not encourage any repatriation,” the U.N. envoy said. “Conducive conditions means they should not go back to … the oppressive laws, the discrimination. The minimum they need is freedom of movement, access to basic health services.”

Lee said “there’s been a lot of progress in terms of economic development and infrastructure, but in the area of ‘democratic space’ and people’s right to claim back their land … there is no progress.”

“Right now, it’s like an apartheid situation where Rohingyas still living in Myanmar … have no freedom of movement,” Lee said. “The camps, the shelters, the model villages that are being built, it’s more of a cementing of total segregation or separation from the Rakhine ethnic community.”

At the council meeting, Darusman said the fact-finding mission concluded that last year’s events were “a human rights catastrophe that was foreseeable and planned,” and it conservatively estimates there were “10,000 Rohingya deaths.”

“Remaining Rohingya in Rakhine state are at grave risk,” he said, and returning Rohingya from Bangladesh would be “tantamount to condemning them to life as sub-humans and further mass killing.” Darusman said the Security Council should the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or another international tribunal and also impose an arms embargo on Myanmar, a ban on transactions with all military-related enterprises and sanctions against those alleged to be most responsible for atrocities against the Rohingya.

“There can be no ‘moving on’ from this crisis without addressing its root causes — all of which continue to exist today, primarily the presence of an unaccountable military that acts with complete impunity,” he said.

The Netherlands’ deputy U.N. ambassador, Lise Gregoire Van Haaren, said her government will push quickly for a Security Council resolution that would refer Myanmar to the ICC. But council action appeared highly unlikely because of its deep divisions and almost certain opposition from China and Russia, both veto-wielding council members.

“I’m very aware that there might be pushback, but having pushback is never a reason not to try,” Van Haaren said. “So we are going to have a really ambitious aim for the negotiations” on a possible resolution “and let’s see where we get.”

Myanmar’s Suan said the Independent Commission of Inquiry established by the government will investigate alleged human rights violations, and “we will never accept any calls for referral of Myanmar to the ICC.”

India deports Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

October 04, 2018

GAUHATI, India (AP) — India on Thursday deported its first group of Rohingya Muslims since the government last year ordered the expulsion of members of the Myanmar minority group and others who entered the country illegally.

The deportation was carried out after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute plea by the seven men’s lawyer that they be allowed to remain in India because they feared reprisals in Myanmar. They were arrested in 2012 for entering India illegally and have been held in prison since then.

Indian authorities handed the seven over to Myanmar officials at a border crossing in Moreh in Manipur state, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. Each carried a bag of belongings.

The Supreme Court said it would allow their deportation because Myanmar had accepted them as citizens. Government attorney Tushar Mehta told the judges that Myanmar had given the seven certificates of identity and 1-month visas to facilitate their deportation.

Most Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar are denied citizenship and face widespread discrimination. Defense attorney Prashant Bhushan said the government should treat them as refugees, not as illegal migrants, and send a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to talk to them so they would not be deported under duress.

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape a brutal campaign of violence by Myanmar’s military. An estimated 40,000 other Rohingya have taken refuge in parts of India. Less than 15,000 are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Many have settled in areas of India with large Muslim populations, including the southern city of Hyderabad, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, and the Himalayan region of Jammu-Kashmir. Some have taken refuge in northeast India bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The Indian government says it has evidence there are extremists who pose a threat to the country’s security among the Rohingya. India is fighting insurgencies in northern Kashmir and in its northeastern states.

Experts air new concerns about UN response to Myanmar crisis

September 19, 2018

GENEVA (AP) — U.N.-backed investigators who examined a bloody crackdown by Myanmar security forces that caused hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh issued a searing critique Tuesday of the United Nations’ own response to the human rights crisis.

In a 432-page report, the members of a fact-finding mission on Myanmar fleshed out preliminary findings and recommendations released in a shorter version three weeks ago. “With a heavy heart and deep sadness, we have drawn conclusions, on the basis of the facts, that we never expected would be as grave as they are,” team chairman Marzuki Darusman said he presented the report to the U.N.-supported Human Rights Council.

“What we have found are not only the most serious human rights violations, but crimes of the highest order under international law,” he said. The team reiterated that some top Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya during a deadly crackdown that erupted in August 2017 following militant attacks on security posts in Rakhine state.

In a rare rebuttal by Myanmar’s government, its new ambassador in Geneva lashed out at what he called a “one-sided” report. The team has said Myanmar’s government had not responded to its report or honored requests for access to violence-hit regions.

“The way the report portrays … the national races of Myanmar is misleading,” the ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, told the 47-member body. “It also undermines the government’s effort to bring peace, national reconciliation and development to the entire nation.”

“Regardless of the lack of balance, impartiality and fairness, the government of Myanmar takes the allegations of human rights violations seriously,” he said. “The government will not condone human rights violations.”

After Marzuki spoke of the rape of women and girls by military forces, the ambassador countered, “We share deep sympathy and concern for all displaced persons, especially women and girls.” The full report also provided new details about the investigators’ concerns about how the United Nations reacted during the spasm of violence. It noted that the “only statement” from the U.N. resident coordinator’s office “was to condemn the ARSA (militant group) attacks and losses suffered by the Myanmar security forces.”

The council created the fact-finding mission 18 months ago, after years of abuses against ethnic minorities in Myanmar, focusing on the time since 2011 when the country began opening up after decades of isolation under a long-ruling military junta.

Though the investigators looked at the treatment of minority groups across the Southeast Asian nation, their mandate came just six months before the crackdown against the Rohingya in Rakhine, injecting the mission with far greater importance to help detail those abuses, crimes and human rights violations.

The report provides details of violence in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states, much of which has been documented and made public through collection of witness accounts, satellite imagery and other sources. It cited allegations of crimes by the military and other security forces including murder, torture, pillaging, execution without due process, rape, sexual slavery and hostage taking.

It said some acts by ethnic armed groups and the Rohingya militant organization ARSA could also constitute war crimes. Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide can be considered by tribunals such as the International Criminal Court, but Myanmar is not a party to it. The country’s government has snubbed a ruling by the court’s judges that said the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes against the Rohingya. The court’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday she was opening a preliminary investigation into Myanmar’s expulsions of Rohingya.

The report’s critique of the United Nations focused not only on the world body’s response to the Rohingya crisis, but its efforts across the country. For example, the investigators noted that the U.N. had rolled out a “Human Rights Up Front Action Plan” in Myanmar in 2013, but said its “human rights driven” approach was “rarely, if ever, pursued.”

“Rather, it was largely ‘business as usual,’ with development goals and humanitarian access prioritized only,” the authors wrote. They cited allegations that some U.N. personnel who tried to pursue a human rights agenda “were ignored, criticized, sidelined or blocked in these efforts.”

They alluded to criticism from Fieldview Solutions, an outside group that works to advance human rights, in July that cited some in U.N. and humanitarian circles for not doing enough to expand their “political space” in Myanmar, adding, “The Myanmar government has learned that it can count on U.N. and humanitarian self-censorship.”

The U.N. experts said some U.N. entities and staffers showed “a lack of cooperation” with their work, and “appeared to view it as a threat, rather than a means to address the most deep rooted human rights challenges facing Myanmar.”

“This attitude and approach must change,” they added. The investigators did acknowledge that some people in the country had faced “intimidation and reprisals” for their “engagement” with the United Nations.

The team renewed its urgent call for “a comprehensive, independent inquiry into the United Nations’ involvement” in hopes of “establishing whether everything possible to prevent or mitigate the unfolding crises was done.” It also sought to draw lessons and — “as appropriate” — make recommendations on accountability.

The investigators bemoaned that “there has been no review of what happened, of where the approach taken had some positive effect and where it did not, and of how the U.N.’s approach could be improved in future crises.”

Kingsley Abbott, senior legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, said the U.N.’s failure to implement the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan in Myanmar requires a credible and transparent investigation.

“The situation has demonstrated yet again that the U.N. secretary-general and his staff in Myanmar must ensure that the entire U.N. system actually puts human rights up front in its day- to-day work in the country,” he added.

The team said a second fact-finding mission should be authorized to examine continued threats to human rights in Myanmar, and urged the creation of a separate team to collect evidence that could be used in possible future prosecutions.

Myanmar snubs Hague court’s intervention in Rohingya crisis

August 10, 2018

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar sharply rejected an attempt by the International Criminal Court to consider the country’s culpability for activities that caused 700,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh for safety last year.

The office of the nation’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said in a statement posted online Thursday that the court in the Netherlands has no jurisdiction over Myanmar because it is not a member state. It also offered procedural reasons for why it would not respond formally to the court’s request for its views on the exodus of the Rohingya, and said the question “is meritless and should be dismissed.” The ICC did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

Critics including U.N. experts have accused Myanmar’s military of atrocities against the Rohingya amounting to ethnic cleaning, or even genocide. Suu Kyi’s government says it was carrying out justifiable counterinsurgency operations in response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya militants in August last year.

The army, according to documentary evidence and survivor and eyewitness accounts compiled by human rights organizations, beat and killed civilians, organized rapes and the burning of thousands of homes belonging to Rohingya in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.

The ICC had solicited Myanmar’s views in April, and later set a July 27 deadline for a response to the question of whether the court should have jurisdiction. Myanmar accused the court of violating international legal norms by seeking to assert jurisdiction over the issue despite Myanmar not being a party to the Rome Statute establishing the court.

“By allowing such a contrived procedure, the ICC may set a dangerous precedent whereby future populistic causes and complaints against non-State Parties to the Rome Statute may be litigated at the urging of biased stakeholders and non-governmental organizations and even then, selectively based on the political current of the times,” it said.

The statement also referred to several proceedings carried out by the court that it called irregular or not allowed under its own rules, including alleged “lack of fairness and transparency.” It also mentioned its agreements to have Rohingya repatriated from Bangladesh, though such action has yet to be implemented and the U.N. has criticized Myanmar for delays.

The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the target of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remained until last year’s violence.

The government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority. Most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights.

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