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Five years since genocide, the world must act to ensure justice for Rohingya

August 25th, 2022  •  Author:   384 Civil Society Organizations  •  9 minute read
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25 August 2022

In marking the five-year commemoration of the genocide committed against the Rohingya in 2017, 384 civil society organizations reaffirm our commitment to continue to stand in solidarity with and seek justice for the Rohingya, to ensure the full restoration of their rights in Myanmar, and to end the impunity of the Myanmar military. The plight of the Rohingya must not be forgotten.

On this day five years ago, the Myanmar military launched a terror campaign in Rakhine State against the Rohingya and massacred, tortured, raped, and burned villages. They forced three quarters of a million people to flee to Bangladesh where they remain today alongside a quarter of a million Rohingya who fled earlier persecutions in Myanmar. Around one million Rohingya are struggling to survive in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh, waiting to return to their home and their country in dignity with their full rights restored.

The return of Rohingya to Myanmar is substantially predicated on ending the impunity of the Myanmar military and accountability for the grave atrocity crimes the military has committed, including by prosecuting individuals who are most responsible. Yet, progress towards justice and accountability has remained minimal, made even more elusive by the military’s attempted coup on February 1, 2021.

As the military commits war crimes and crimes against humanity throughout the country, perpetrating similar crimes committed against the Rohingya in 2017 during its ‘clearance operations’, on 10 August 2022, the junta’s spokesperson for Rakhine State, U Hla Thein, told Radio Free Asia the junta is making plans to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Rakhine State – at the rate of 150 people per day starting in September 2022. This is a part of its ongoing desperate attempt to gain legitimacy from the international community. As recently expressed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights during her visit to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, “conditions are not right for returns” and “Repatriation must always be conducted in a voluntary and dignified manner, only when safe and sustainable conditions exist in Myanmar.”

Rohingya in Myanmar continue to live under genocidal policies in apartheid-like conditions, systematically denied citizenship, with severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms including freedom of movement, access to health, education and other essential services. They are arbitrarily arrested, detained and treated as criminals for traveling outside of confined areas and further dehumanized for attempting to flee appalling conditions within Rakhine State. The over 130,000 Rohingya that remain in open air prison camps in Rakhine State face new restrictions on movement and aid blockages since the attempted coup. In effect, the genocidal acts of deliberately inflicting conditions of life that are calculated to bring about the Rohingya’s physical destruction, in whole or in part, are continuing to be perpetrated by the military junta, leading to their “slow death”.

Emboldened by the lack of international, concerted action to hold the military accountable, the world is bearing witness to the military’s atrocity crimes, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, that are now being perpetrated against the wider population in Myanmar as people bravely resist the junta’s ongoing violent attempt to seize power which has failed after 18 months. These crimes are all too familiar to the ethnic communities who have endured decades of atrocities by the Myanmar military.

Five years on, words have not turned into robust action as more statements of “grave concern” pile on to the condemnation of military’s atrocity crimes. Actions must speak louder.

We welcome the ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the preliminary objections lodged by the military junta in the case of Rohingya genocide brought forward by The Gambia, which has paved the way for the court to adjudicate the merits of The Gambia’s case. With this ruling, governments must send a strong message to the Myanmar military that they will be held accountable for their crimes by supporting The Gambia’s case – including lending legal, financial and technical support. In addition, the UN Security Council, and the UK as the “penholder” on Myanmar, must convene a meeting on the progress of the implementation of the provisional measures.

Efforts to hold the Myanmar military criminally accountable must be expedited. This includes supporting universal jurisdiction cases to prosecute the military, in particular the universal jurisdiction case in Argentina. It is vital that the international community continue to explore other avenues for full justice and accountability, including a UN Security Council referral of the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or to set up an ad-hoc tribunal.

We welcome the US government’s determination earlier this year that crimes committed against Rohingya amount to genocide. Five months have passed since this decisive step. The US must bolster accountability efforts by joining The Gambia case at the ICJ and impose further sanctions including sanctioning the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) – one of the junta’s main sources of foreign currency revenue.

The Myanmar military continues to enrich themselves through their businesses and are enabled by the web of arms brokers that supply them with weapons and equipment to carry out their atrocity crimes. There must be further efforts to impose targeted sanctions against their businesses, partners and cronies. Governments must impose arms embargo against the military, including on jet fuel to the military, while working towards a coordinated global arms embargo.

The ongoing crimes against the Rohingya underscore the importance of the National Unity Government (NUG), as the legitimate government of Myanmar, to translate the policy of the NUG into a concrete set of actions and implement the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ. These can include by fully and meaningfully engaging with the Rohingya to restore their equal rights, recognizing the Rohingya as an ethnic and indigenous group to Myanmar, and ensuring their representation in the ongoing political processes, including in the highest echelons of the NUG governing structures. The NUG, the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) must immediately amend the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law by removing all discriminatory articles and clauses as pledged in its policy paper, and repeal the racist and xenophobic four “Race and Religion Protection Laws” and the National Verification Process that has long been used as a tool for genocide. The people of Spring Revolution have shown their solidarity and empathy with the Rohingya community since its start. It is time that the NUG translate its policy and people’s solidarity into actions.

For more information, please contact:

Signed by 384 organizations, including 265 groups who have chosen not to disclose their names:

  1. 8888 Generation (New Zealand)
  2. Action Committee for Democracy Development
  3. Ah Nah Podcast – Conversation with Myanmar
  4. All Burma Democratic Face in New Zealand
  5. ALTSEAN-Burma
  6. Ananda Data
  7. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  8. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
  9. Asian Dignity Initiative
  10. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  11. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  12. Association Suisse-Birmanie (ASB)
  13. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  14. Auckland Kachin Community NZ
  15. Auckland Zomi Community
  16. Ayeyarwaddy Youth Network
  17. Bandugavlar Civil Call – BCC (Sagaing Region)
  18. Blooming Padauk
  19. Burma Action Ireland
  20. Burma Campaign UK
  21. Burma Civil War Museum (BCM)
  22. Burma Human Rights Network
  23. Burma Task Force
  24. Burman suomalaiset Finland
  25. Burmese Community Group (Manawatu, NZ)
  26. Burmese Muslim Association (BMA)
  27. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
  28. Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation New Zealand
  29. Campaign for a New Myanmar
  30. Chin Community of Auckland
  31. Chin Human Rights Organization
  32. Chin Leaders of Tomorrow
  33. Chin MATA Working Group
  34. Chin Resources Center
  35. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  36. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  37. CRPH & NUG Supporters Ireland
  38. CRPH Funding Ireland
  39. CRPH Support Group, Norway
  40. Democracy for Ethnic Minorities Organization
  41. Democracy for Myanmar – Working Group (NZ)
  42. Democracy, Peace And Women’s Organization
  43. Digital Right Collective
  44. Equality Myanmar
  45. European Karen Network (EKN)
  46. Federal Myanmar Benevolence Group (NZ)
  47. Freedom for Burma
  48. Future Thanlwin
  49. General Strike Committee of Nationalities (GSCN)
  50. Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)
  51. Grass-root People
  52. Human Rights Educator Network
  53. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  54. India For Myanmar
  55. Info Birmanie
  56. Initiatives for International Dialogue
  57. Institute for Asian Democracy
  58. International Campaign for the Rohingya
  59. Justice for All
  60. Justice For Myanmar
  61. Karen Human Rights Group
  62. Karen Swedish Community
  63. Karen Women’s Organization
  64. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  65. Karenni Society Finland
  66. Karenni Society New Zealand
  67. Keng Tung Youth
  68. Kyauktada Strike Committee (KSC)
  69. MATA (Sagaing Region)
  70. Metta Campaign Mandalay
  71. Myanmar Accountability Project
  72. Myanmar Action Group Denmark (MAGD)
  73. Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability – MATA
  74. Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS)
  75. Myanmar Diaspora Group Finland
  76. Myanmar Engineers – New Zealand
  77. Myanmar Gonye (New Zealand)
  78. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  79. Myanmar Students’ Union in New Zealand
  80. Never Again Coalition
  81. Netherlands – Myanmar Solidarity Platform
  82. ​​Network for Advocacy Action
  83. New Rehmonnya Federated Force (NRFF)
  84. New Zealand Doctors for NUG
  85. New Zealand Karen Association
  86. New Zealand Zo Community Inc.
  87. No Business With Genocide
  88. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  89. Overseas Mon Association, New Zealand
  90. Pa-O Women’s Union
  91. Progressive Voice
  92. Pyithu Gonye (New Zealand)
  93. Rvwang Community Association New Zealand
  94. Rohingya Action Ireland
  95. SaNaR (Save the Natural Resource)
  96. Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas
  97. Save Myanmar Fundraising Group (New Zealand)
  98. Shan Community (New Zealand)
  99. Shan MATA
  100. Sisters 2 Sisters
  101. SOS MYANMAR (ရုန်းကန်သံအဖွဲ့)
  102. Southern Dragon (Myanmar)
  103. Southern Youth Development Organization
  104. Students for Free Burma (SFB)
  105. Swedish Burma Committee
  106. Synergy-Social Harmony Organization
  107. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  108. Ta’ang Legal Aid
  109. Tanintharyi MATA
  110. The Free Burma Campaign (South Africa)
  111. The Sentry
  112. Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar Organization
  113. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
  114. S. Advocacy Coalition for Myanmar (USACM)
  115. S. Campaign for Burma
  116. Women Advocacy Coalition Myanmar
  117. Women’s League of Burma
  118. Women’s Peace Network
  119. အထက်အညာလွင်ပြင်ရပ်ဝန်

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