GENEVA (24 August 2022) – Five years after Myanmar forces began a genocidal attack against Rohingya men, women, and children in Rakhine State, a UN expert today urged the international community to redouble its efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and deliver justice to the Rohingya inside and outside Myanmar.
“It is long past time for the entirety of the international community to call these attacks what they are – genocide. The Myanmar military has yet to be held to account for this ultimate crime,” said Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
“It is no wonder then that the military has had the audacity to imprison – and indeed execute – democracy and human rights advocates and elected leaders while engaging in yet more atrocity crimes against the people of Myanmar.”
“It is critical that, once and for all, the international community hold the Myanmar military accountable for its atrocities,” Andrews said.
Beginning late at night on 24 August 2017 and lasting for weeks, Myanmar forces planned and executed attacks that resulted in the widespread and targeted killing of Rohingya civilians including systematic sexual violence and the looting, burning, and razing of entire villages. Myanmar forces killed thousands of Rohingya and forced over 700,000 to flee for their lives into Bangladesh.
The Special Rapporteur recalled that attacks against the Rohingya did not just happen in August 2017, but over many years. During fact-finding missions to Rakhine State prior to the 2017 attacks, Andrews said he witnessed the oppressive conditions Rohingya were living in and the denial of basic rights they had to endure.
“I visited what is and what remains to this day, effectively a concentration camp or ghetto, where over 120,000 Rohingya are confined in Sittwe. I remember a man telling me that if the world would not help to free them from the camps, then to please bomb them as death would be preferable to the horrible conditions that he and his family were forced to endure,” the expert said.
More than 1 million Rohingya survivors live in Bangladesh, in camps in Cox’s Bazaar and Bhasan Char. They are unable to return home, confined in cramped conditions often lacking security, and cannot pursue their livelihoods, the expert said.
“The Rohingya in Bangladesh continue to live with the trauma of what they witnessed by the deaths of their loved ones, by the loss of their community, their homes, by the attempted destruction of their very identity,” Andrews said.
He called on the international community to strengthen its support for the Rohingya who live in camps in Bangladesh through robust funding that ensures access to quality, inclusive humanitarian services, health care, and education until they can return home.
Andrews said he was in awe of Rohingya survivors, activists, and human rights defenders who, despite their circumstances, were working together with international lawyers to creatively pursue justice in diverse jurisdictions including the International Court of Justice.
The UN Special Rapporteur called for solidarity with the Rohingya through concrete action to support accountability and justice and to help to rebuild their lives. Andrews said that the Rohingya – both inside and outside of Myanmar – need and deserve international support.
“The international community must do its part and refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court without delay and put maximum pressure on this criminal military through economic and diplomatic means,” the Special Rapporteur said.
OHCHR-UN Special Procedures - Human Rights (c) 2022