Act Now to End and Remedy Crimes Against Humanity in Myanmar

September 29, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
September 25, 2017
https://go.usa.gov/xRSUU 

CONTACT 
Audra McGeorge  |  Cory Fritz 
(202) 225-5021

 

The United Nations Security Council and U.N. member states should act urgently to impose an arms embargo on the Myanmar military and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for atrocity crimes against Rohingya Muslims and others in Rakhine State, Fortify Rights said today. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres will today publicly brief the U.N. Security Council on the human rights situation in Rakhine State.
 
“No more excuses, the international community must act now,” said Kate Vigneswaran, Legal Director at Fortify Rights. “Condemnations from the international community are important, but concrete action is urgently needed to end and remedy atrocities against Rohingya and others.”   
 
Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and 85 other civil society organizations from around the world called today for U.N. Security Council action as well as a U.N. General Assembly Resolution to demand an immediate end to crimes against humanity against Rohingya. The organizations call on the Government of Myanmar to provide humanitarian aid agencies with “immediate and unhindered access to populations in need,” and for the authorities to provide unfettered access to a U.N. Fact-Finding Mission established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March. The organizations also urged “member states and the Security Council to explore possible avenues to bring perpetrators of crimes under international law to justice.”
 
Fortify Rights has documented killings, rape and gang-rape, mass graves, and other crimes, including the razing of entire villages, by state security forces against Rohingya civilians during two waves of Myanmar Army-led “clearance operations” beginning in October 2016 and continuing in August and September 2017. These attacks are ongoing and have forcibly displaced more than half a million Rohingya since the October violence.
 
“These are crimes against humanity, and they are being committed with complete impunity,” said Kate Vigneswaran. “The Security Council needs to act to ensure the attacks stop and the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
 
Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines “crimes against humanity” as an act “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”
 
Fortify Rights has collected a significant body of evidence in Rakhine State and on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border since October 2016 indicating that soldiers and police intentionally carried out prohibited acts within the context of a widespread and systematic attack against Rohingya with knowledge of the broader context into which these crimes were perpetrated and in full awareness that their actions contributed to the attack. This evidence indicates that Myanmar Army soldiers and members of the Myanmar Police Force committed crimes against humanity.
 
The Myanmar Army-led attacks against Rohingya were in response to attacks on state security forces by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), known locally as al-Yaqin. On October 9, 2016, ARSA killed nine police officers during a surprise attack on three police outposts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships. On August 25, 2017, ARSA killed another 12 state security officials in attacks on 30 police outposts and an army base in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships.
 
Fortify Rights also documented killings of Rohingya civilians by ARSA and called on the Myanmar government to hold perpetrators accountable.
 
In recent days, the Myanmar government announced the discovery of 45 “Hindus” in a mass grave near Kha Maung Seik village in northern Maungdaw Township, alleging ARSA killed them on August 25. The government continues to deny the U.N. Fact Finding Mission access to Rakhine State.
 
The U.N. Fact Finding Mission should be given immediate and unfettered access to Rakhine State and other parts of the country, including Kachin and Shan states, to urgently investigate atrocity crimes, Fortify Rights said.
 
“We’ve already seen what ongoing impunity for international crimes has done for Myanmar,” said Kate Vigneswaran. “It’s been destructive for the country and for the region and can’t continue to be an option for the international community.”

For more information, please contact:


Kate Vigneswaran, Legal Director, Fortify Rights, +66.94.940.8057 (Thailand), kate.vigneswaran@fortifyrights.org; Twitter: @KateVigneswaran, @FortifyRights

Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer, +1.202.503.8032 (U.S.), matthew.smith@fortifyrights.org; Twitter: @matthewfsmith, @fortifyrights


JOINT STATEMENT


UN member states should act to pressure Myanmar to end crimes against humanity Myanmar


We, a global coalition of 88 civil society organizations, urgently call upon UN member states to take immediate steps to address the human rights abuses and humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya population. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein have described the Myanmar security forces’ ongoing campaign against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State as ethnic cleansing. As more evidence emerges, it is clear that the atrocities committed by Myanmar state security forces amount to crimes against humanity. The United Nations and its member states need to take urgent action.

We urge UN delegations, especially those from the 114 countries committed to the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Code of Conduct, who made a pledge to support “timely and decisive action” to prevent or end the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, to immediately undertake efforts to adopt a resolution in the UN General Assembly addressing the situation, and call upon the UN Security Council to consider measures to be imposed on the Myanmar government.

Over 400,000 Rohingya have fled across the border into Bangladesh since August 25, when Myanmar security forces launched operations in response to coordinated attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Rakhine State. These operations, involving widespread killing, laying of landmines, looting, and arson targeting the Rohingya, have resulted in the mass destruction of more than 200 villages, according to satellite imagery and eyewitness testimony. Tens of thousands of people from other ethnic minorities have also been displaced as a result of the violence.

Strong condemnations by the UN and world leaders have not brought an end to Myanmar’s atrocities. In his opening statement to the Human Rights Council on September 11, al Hussein noted that in 2016 he “warned that the pattern of gross violations of the human rights of the Rohingya suggested a widespread or systematic attack against the community, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity.”Civil society organizations have warned that the campaign of Myanmar’s security forces against the Rohingya since August 25 amounts to crimes against humanity. It is crucial for UN members to take concrete action and place direct pressure on Myanmar’s military and civilian leaders.

The European Union, until recently, was the chief sponsor of an annual resolution on human rights in Myanmar at the General Assembly. Last year, the EU decided to stop the effort even in the midst of government violence against the Rohingya beginning in October 2016. Now, we urge members of the EU to work with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as other concerned states to jointly revive this resolution as a means of pursuing decisive action by the General Assembly in response to the gravity of the ongoing situation in Rakhine State and the evolving human rights and humanitarian crisis.

A General Assembly resolution should demand an immediate end to the abuses, that humanitarian aid agencies have immediate and unhindered access to populations in need, and for the UN Fact-Finding Mission authorized by the Human Rights Council in Geneva to be allowed unfettered access into and within Myanmar to investigate alleged human rights abuses across the country. It should also demand that the Myanmar authorities commit to ensuring that all Rohingya and other refugees and displaced people are able to return to their places of origin safely, voluntarily, and with dignity, and to dismantling the institutional discrimination and segregation of Rohingya and other Muslims in Rakhine State that forms the backdrop to the current crisis. The resolution should also urge member states and the Security Council to explore possible avenues to bring perpetrators of crimes under international law to justice.

We also urge members of the Security Council to add to the pressure on Myanmar authorities by seriously considering options such as an arms embargo against the military and targeted financial sanctions against individuals responsible for crimes and serious abuses.

All concerned UN member states should also consider bilateral, multilateral, and regional actions they can take to place added pressure on the Myanmar government. In particular, we call on all states to immediately suspend military assistance and cooperation with Myanmar.

If governments, UN officials and diplomats simply hold meetings and make speeches as atrocities continue in Myanmar, they bear the risk of failing to use every diplomatic tool at their disposal to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and further crimes against humanity. In the face of mass destruction, killings and hundreds of thousands displaced, inaction should not be an option.
 
Signatories:
 

AFL-CIO

American Jewish World Service

Amnesty International

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

Asociación Pro Derechos Humano - Peru (APRODEH)

Asylum Access

Avaaz

Burma Campaign UK

Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)

Burma Task Force

Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Center for Civilians in Conflict

Center for Development of International Law

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Coalition for Justice and Accountability (COJA)  

Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP)

Council for Humanitarian Networking of Sheikul Islam Office

CREDO Action

Cross Cultural Foundation (CRCF)

Development and Justice Initiative, India

Equal Rights Trust

Fortify Rights

Foundation for Rural Development (FRD)

Front Mahasiswa

Genocide Watch

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)

Global Progressive Hub

Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

Human Rights Now

Human Rights Watch

Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)

Institute for Asian Democracy

Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion

International Campaign for the Rohingya

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect

International Detention Coalition

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Justice Project

International Organization for Victim Assistance

International State Crime Initiative

Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)

Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights

Justice Centre Hong Kong

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Migrant 88

Migrant Working Group (MWG) 

Minority Rights Group International

Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

National Council of Churches

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Odhikar

Pan African Lawyers Union's (PALU)

Partners Relief & Development

Pemuda Anti Kekerasan Acheh

Persatuan Darul Fitrah Terengganu

Persatuan Ulama Kedah

Physicians for Human Rights

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Progressive Voice Myanmar

PROHAM (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights Malaysia)

Refugees International

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Restless Beings

SANRIM

SHARP-Pakistan

Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak

Society for Threatened Peoples-Germany

STAND Canada

STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities

Suaka Indonesia

Swedish Burma Committee 

The Arakan Project

The Episcopal Church

The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights 

The Stanley Foundation

Ummatee 

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

United Nations Association – UK

US Campaign for Burma

Win Without War

World Federalist Movement - Canada

World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy

Yateem TV

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(c) 2017 Fortify Rights International

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