“Tools of Genocide”: National Verification Cards and the Denial of Citizenship of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention warns of certain indicators that “provide an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes,” including “increased politicization of identity” and discriminatory “measures or legislation” targeting protected groups. In addition to certain prohibited acts, such as killing members of a group, genocidal States often use legal and administrative tools to facilitate the destruction of a targeted group “in whole or in part.”
In Myanmar, successive governments have implemented measures and legislation to erase Rohingya Muslims’ identity and rights, creating an enabling environment for genocide.
This report documents how the Government of Myanmar is using discriminatory administrative measures to deny Rohingya the right to nationality. The government has forced or coerced Rohingya to accept National Verification Cards (NVCs), which effectively identify Rohingya as “foreigners,” and Myanmar authorities tortured Rohingya and imposed restrictions on Rohingya freedom of movement in the context of implementing the NVC process.
This report finds that the NVC process violates customary international law as well as core human rights treaties to which Myanmar is a party, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and may have contributed to the commission of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority group indigenous to Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Using a citizenship law entered into force in 1982, the government denies access to full citizenship for individuals who do not belong to “national” ethnic groups determined by the State. The State relies on an arbitrary and disputed list of 135 recognized national ethnic groups. As Rohingya are not among the “national ethnic groups” specified by the Myanmar government, the law effectively strips them of access to full citizenship rights.
Over the years, successive governments in Myanmar also created a series of administrative “citizenship scrutiny” processes to progressively limit rights for Rohingya.
The latest iteration of these processes is the NVC.