- According to UN investigators, Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent” and the Commander-in-Chief and five generals should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law.
Who are the Rohingya?
- The Rohingya, who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country.
- Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state.
- They have their own language and culture and say they are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations.
- But the government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, denies the Rohingya citizenship and even excluded them from the 2014 census, refusing to recognise them as a people.
- It sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
- Since the 1970s, Rohingya have migrated across the region in significant numbers. Estimates of their numbers are often much higher than official figures.
- In the last few years, before the latest crisis, thousands of Rohingya were making perilous journeys out of Myanmar to escape communal violence or alleged abuses by the security forces.
Why are they fleeing?
- The latest exodus began on 25 August 2017 after Rohingya Arsa militants launched deadly attacks on more than 30 police posts.
- Rohingyas fled after troops, backed by local Buddhist mobs, responded by burning their villages and attacking and killing civilians.
- At least 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the month after the violence broke out, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
- Amnesty International says the Myanmar military also raped and abused Rohingya women and girls.
- Some 7,00,000 Rohingya fled the crackdown and most are now living in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.
The UN Report
- A UN panel was set up last year which interviewed victims and witnesses in Bangladesh and other countries, and analysed documents, videos, photographs and satellite images.
- In a report submitted by UN investigators, it called for the UN Security Council to set up an ad hoc tribunal to try suspects or refer them to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
- The Security Council should also impose an arms embargo on Myanmar and targeted sanctions against individuals most responsible for crimes.
- They blamed the country’s de facto civilian leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to use her ”moral authority” to protect civilians
- The report also criticised Facebook for allowing the world’s biggest social media network to be used to incite violence and hatred.
- The report said the military action, which included the torching of villages, was “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”.
- There is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw (army) chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine state.
What is the Myanmar government’s stand on it ?
- Suu Kyi’s government has rejected most allegations of atrocities made against the security forces by refugees.
- It has built transit centres for refugees to return, but UN aid agencies say it is not yet safe for them to do so.
About UN and UN Security Council
- The UN Charter established six main organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council.
- It gives primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to the Security Council, which may meet whenever peace is threatened.
- According to the Charter, the United Nations has four purposes:
- To maintain international peace and security
- To develop friendly relations among nations
- To cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights
- To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.
- All members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.
Maintaining Peace and Security
- When a complaint concerning a threat to peace is brought before it, the Council’s first action is usually to recommend that the parties try to reach agreement by peaceful means. The Council may:
- Set forth principles for such an agreement
- Undertake investigation and mediation
- Dispatch a mission
- Appoint special envoys
- Request the Secretary-General to use his good offices to achieve a pacific settlement of the dispute
- When a dispute leads to hostilities, the Council’s primary concern is to bring them to an end as soon as possible. In that case, the Council may:
- Issue ceasefire directives that can help prevent an escalation of the conflict
- Dispatch military observers or a peacekeeping force to help reduce tensions, separate opposing forces and establish a calm in which peaceful settlements may be sought.
- Beyond this, the Council may opt for enforcement measures, including:
- Economic sanctions, arms embargoes, financial penalties and restrictions, and travel bans
- Severance of diplomatic relations
- Collective military action
- A chief concern is to focus action on those responsible for the policies or practices condemned by the international community, while minimizing the impact of the measures taken on other parts of the population and economy.
About International Court of Justice
- The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN).
- It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
- The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
- Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).
- The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
- The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ.
- Its official languages are English and French.