P.K.BALACHANDRAN | 15 DECEMBER, 2017
EU wants world to go from verbal condemnation to action on Rohingya issue
COLOMBO: The European Parliament passed a resolution on December 14, “urgently” calling upon all member states to adopt “targeted punitive sanctions” against individuals in the military and security services responsible for perpetuating “widespread human rights abuses” in Myanmar.
The resolution “deplores the failure of the UN Security Council to agree on decisive measures and calls for the EU and its member states to step up pressure on those blocking meaningful action, including China and Russia.”
It calls upon the EU and its member states to “extend the scope” of the existing arms embargo against Myanmar; calls on the UN Security Council to impose a “global comprehensive arms embargo” on Myanmar, suspending all direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer, including transit and transshipment of all weapons, munitions and other military and security equipment.
The resolution presses for continued UN Security Council action, including a “referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC), if Myanmar is unable or unwilling to prosecute or self-refer.”
The resolution calls upon the EU to “lead international efforts by means of an intergovernmental summit together with the UN.” It proposes that this summit review progress on the Rohingya repatriation process and the restoration of citizenship rights.
It also calls for a procedure to initiate an “independent investigation of crimes against humanity”.
The resolution encourages the main international and regional actors, in particular China, to use all bilateral, multilateral, and regional platforms at their disposal to demand an end to the atrocities and bring about a peaceful resolution.
It reiterates its call for the Myanmar government to immediately cease its use of landmines and to remove all mines it has already laid, including those laid recently along the border with Bangladesh.
The resolution expresses “deep concern” about reports of trafficking in Rohingya women and girls in Myanmar and Bangladesh, and urges the authorities of both countries to work with the UNHCR and human rights organizations to end the trafficking and provide the women and girls affected with protection and support.
It urges the Government of Myanmar to address the long-standing and systematic discrimination; stresses that without tackling the root causes it is impossible to put a stop to their plight. In this regard that the denial of rights to minorities in Myanmar extends beyond the Rohingya and also affects other ethnic groups, including in Kachin and Shan States.
The EU urges the Myanmar government to issue ID cards which do not list religions affiliation and “insists” that the segregation of the Rohingya population in Myanmar must be brought to an end.
It calls for the curfew for the Rohingya to be lifted and all but the necessary checkpoints to be dismantled. The Rohingyas rights of access to healthcare, food, education and employment should be upheld, it adds.
EU resolution “commends” efforts made by Bangladesh in the face of a humanitarian crisis in one of its neighboring countries; welcomes the protection Bangladesh has provided for Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar and encourages it to continue offering support in cooperation with the UNHCR.
But the resolution calls on Bangladesh to further facilitate humanitarian operations by international NGOs by simplifying the bureaucratic burden, the registration process and restrictions on movement.
The EU resolution notes the MoU between Myanmar and Bangladesh on repatriation; urges the parties to fully respect the voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Rohingya to their places of origin without discrimination of any kind, and “with full UN oversight.”
The resolution “insists” that the Myanmar authorities offer “credible” assurances that returnees will not be persecuted or forced into segregated camps on ethnic or religious grounds and “guarantee independent and impartial monitoring by human rights bodies.”
The resolution reaffirms the principle of non-refoulement and echoes the UNHCR assessment of November 24, 2017 that ‘at present, conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are not in place to enable safe and sustainable returns’.
The resolution calls for the EU and its Member States to increase financial and material support for the accommodation of refugees, while making sure that the assistance does not go towards unacceptable solutions for refugees and returnees.
The EU resolution says that the Rohingya are “one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. They are denied full citizenship rights and rendered stateless under Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law. They are largely confined to camps with severe restrictions placed on free movement within and outside Rakhine State.”
The most recent attacks on security posts in August 2017 provoked an “overwhelmingly disproportionate” response from the Myanmar military, which committed “severe” human rights violations against the Rohingya people, the EU said.
The murder, rape and torture of Rohingya and the burning down of their villages are used as a tool to permanently damage the social structure of the Rohingya and to traumatize the population.
The border between Myanmar and Bangladesh has been militarized and landmines have been laid to prevent people from crossing it.
Since August 2017 more than 646 000 Rohingya have fled for safety in neighboring Bangladesh, facing harrowing conditions; whereas the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is expected to exceed 1 million by the end of 2017.
Dozens of people, including women and children, have died en route and more than 400 000 people are in need of healthcare and food assistance, the EU noted.
But, according to UN agencies, access for humanitarian organizations remains highly restrictive, including for the delivery of food, water and medicine to the Rohingya.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, announced on 10 September 2017 that the situation in Myanmar ‘seems like a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.
On 5 December 2017 Zaid said that an act of “genocide” against Rohingya Muslims by state forces in Myanmar cannot be ruled out.
Amnesty International has described the situation for minorities in Rakhine State as one of ‘apartheid’.
The UN Human Rights Council has condemned ‘the very likely commission of crimes against humanity’ in Myanmar.
The Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding which should guarantee the safe return of the Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh. But it is unclear how many potential Rohingya repatriates will be housed in camps and temporary holding areas. There is no clear timeline for a return to adequate security and safe housing or for the recognition of their citizenship rights, the EU points out.
On November 23, 2017 an MoU between Myanmar and Bangladesh on the repatriation of Rohingya people from Bangladesh to Myanmar was signed. On November 16, there was a draft resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar approved by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.
One June 20,2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presented a report entitled ‘Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.
On March 18, 2016, there was a report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
On October 23, 2017, the UNHCR, OCHA, IOM, the European Union and the Government of Kuwait secured pledges for aid totaling USD 344 million, more than half of which came from the EU.
The EU now wants the world to go from uttering words of condemnation to action to alleviate the condition of the hapless Rohingyas.