JAKARTA – Ahead of the deadline imposed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) tomorrow for Myanmar to submit its first report in the case alleging genocide against the Rohingya, regional parliamentarians are calling on Myanmar to take immediate steps to end the discriminatory restrictions against the minority group. Authorities must also protect all civilians in the ongoing war in Rakhine and Chin states, said ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
“We have still not seen any credible evidence of Myanmar improving the situation for the Rohingya at all. Those inside Myanmar are still living in apartheid conditions and subject to the same – if not worse – restrictions they have lived under for years now, including those on their freedom of movement, access to health, education, and livelihoods. After all the pressure Myanmar has faced on this issue, how are we still at this point?” said Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament in Malaysia and APHR chair.
In the preliminary ruling of the Gambia v. Myanmar case on 23 January, the ICJ ruled that there is a serious risk of genocide against the Rohingya. The court ordered Myanmar to implement provisional measures to prevent all acts of genocide including “killing members of the group,” “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” or “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”. It also requires Myanmar to preserve evidence of crimes that could amount to genocide. These provisional measures are legally binding and require Myanmar to provide a report on their progress by 23 May, and a follow-up every six months thereafter.
On 8 April, Myanmar issued two presidential directives in response to the provisional measures. President Directive No. 1/2020 orders “all Ministries and all Regions and States Governments” to ensure that its staff, military or security forces and others under its control “do not commit” acts defined in the Genocide Convention, while Directive No. 2/2020 prohibits “all Ministries and the Rakhine State government” from destroying or removing any evidence of genocidal acts.
“The Myanmar government’s directives, while a positive start, mean nothing if there are no concrete measures being implemented on the ground to dismantle the system of apartheid and discrimination against the Rohingya. If Myanmar is serious about complying with the ICJ, an absolute start point must be lifting the government-imposed internet blackout in Rakhine and Chin states,” Santiago said.
All civilians living in Rakhine State are caught in the midst of the intensifying conflict between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army, in which hundreds have been killed and wounded, and more than 157,000 people displaced. Amid a telecommunications blackout in Rakhine, the Tatmadaw excluded Rakhine State from their recently announced four-month unilateral ceasefire aimed at tackling the COVID-19 virus.
APHR calls on ASEAN to urge Myanmar to protect civilians in the conflict, and tackle the root causes of the crisis by taking a rights-based approach that is in line with international standards. To achieve this, the recommendations from the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State should be implemented, and ASEAN must urge Myanmar to cooperate with international accountability mechanisms to ensure justice for the Rohingya.
“We are talking about the most severe crimes under international law. After decades of oppression, violence and restrictions on the rights of the Rohingya, the international community cannot continue to watch the Myanmar authorities act with impunity. It may be years before the ICJ comes up with a final judgment, so in the meantime, ASEAN leaders must urge Myanmar to implement genuine reform,” said Chamnan Chanruang, an APHR member and former Thai MP.