Burma: CSW Calls for International Action on Rakhine State Following UN Security Council Discussion

The United Nations Security Council met on 30 August to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, Burma. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling for international action to tackle the crisis, including measures such as targeted sanctions and the suspension of British training for the Burmese Army.

Matthew Rycroft, the UK Ambassador to the UN, said that in the closed meeting, Security Council members discussed the recommendations outlined in the final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine, but no formal statement was adopted: “We all condemned the violence. We all called on the parties to de-escalate.”

An escalating humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State has left thousands displaced and hundreds dead, with reports of the destruction of thousands of homes in attacks by the Burma Army. The military’s current offensive follows reported attacks on 30 police stations by a small armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Rakhine State on 25 August. This latest crisis follows a severe military offensive against civilians in Rakhine State in October 2016, sparked by the deaths of nine police officers in an attack on two border guard posts on Burma’s border with Bangladesh on 9 October 2016. The Burmese accused ARSA of acts of terrorism, but responded with widespread attacks on Rohingya civilians. The subsequent military offensive has led to the worst human rights and humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State since 2012.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Public Affairs Team Leader, Sini Maria Heikkila, said: “While we welcome the Security Council’s discussion on the desperate situation in Rakhine State, we are disappointed that no formal statement was adopted, and no concrete plans were devised to address it. We condemn ARSA’s attacks, but the Burmese military’s wholly disproportionate assault on Rohingya civilians is a continuation of its persecution of the Rohingyas and may amount to further crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.”

“We call directly upon the head of the Burmese military, Commander in Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, to halt attacks against Rohingya civilians and to allow aid to reach all in need, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. We also urge the international community to consider targeted sanctions against Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to suspend current training programmes with the Burma Army and to press the Government of Burma to engage with existing UN Human Rights Council mechanisms and address reports of severe human rights violations underway in northern Burma. It is surely time for the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council and other relevant bodies to take stronger collective action by invoking the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ if the Burmese authorities remain unable or unwilling to take action to end this crisis.”

On 3 February, The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published an extensive “flash report” into human rights violations in Rakhine state, which raised concerns that rights violations in Rakhine State are the result of a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.” The report states that “an estimated 22,000 people remain internally displaced as at 20 January, which means that nearly 90,000 people are estimated to have suffered internal or cross-border displacement since 9 October 2016.”

In recent days thousands more have been displaced. In a statement on 29 August, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, urged all sides to renounce the use of violence and called on State authorities to ensure they operate in line with their obligations under international human rights law: “Decades of persistent and systematic human rights violations, including the very violent security responses to the attacks since October 2016, have almost certainly contributed to the nurturing of violent extremism, with everyone ultimately losing.”

His Holiness Pope Francis, who will visit Burma from 27 to 30 November 2017 in the first-ever papal visit to Burma, called for prayer for the Rohingya in a statement on 27 August: “Sad news has arrived of the persecution of the religious minority, our Rohingya brothers. I would like to express all my closeness to them, and let us all ask the Lord to save them and to inspire men and women of goodwill to help them, so that they may have their full rights. Let us also pray for our Rohingya brothers.”

“Pope Francis’ statement sends a vital message about the values of human dignity, religious freedom and inter-religious harmony for all. We hope His Holiness’ visit to the country in November will be an opportunity to promote peace and constructive dialogue, and to advocate for the rights of the Rohingya and other ethnic nationalities in the country, such as the Kachin and Shan, who are facing similar rights violations and crimes against humanity at the hands of the Burmese army,” Sini Maria Heikkila added.

 

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Senior Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

View the original press release HERE.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Responsibility to Protect refers to the obligation of States toward their populations and toward all populations at risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. Following a document produced at the 2005 World Summit, a 2009 report by the UN Secretary-General outlined three pillars of the responsibility to protect:

The State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement;

The international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling this responsibility;

The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the UN Charter.

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