Prevent The Unthinkable

December 2nd, 2022  •  Author:   Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK  •  5 minute read
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Executive summary

On 22 July, the International Court of Justice issued its judgment on Myanmar’s four preliminary objections to the Gambia’s genocide case against Myanmar, rejecting them all. This means that the case will now proceed to the merits phase on the substance of the case: whether the Myanmar State has committed genocide against the Rohingya people. Until the case reaches its conclusion, the Myanmar State must continue to submit reports to the Court every six months on its compliance with the Court’s order to ‘take all measures within its power’ to protect the Rohingya from further harm.

Over the past six months, armed conflict has significantly escalated in Rakhine State; a microcosm of the rest of the country. By the end of September, more than 17,400 people had been newly displaced since August as a result of armed clashes between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military in Rakhine State and Paletwa township in southern Chin State. The Myanmar military has committed atrocity crimes against the Rakhine, Rohingya and other ethnic minority communities in the region in brutal fashion.

However, what is unique about the situation in Rakhine State is the applicability of the ICJ’s provisional measures order. The purpose of the order is to protect the Rohingya, a group described by the Court as ‘extremely vulnerable’.

Rohingya communities continue to be caught in the middle of the power struggle between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military, particularly in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Kyauktaw townships. As set out in this briefing, Rohingya have been killed, seriously injured, and displaced by the fighting. Rohingya homes and mosques have been damaged and destroyed.

There have been fierce clashes waged around the area of Gudar Pyin village tract in Buthidaung township, where the Myanmar military carried out several massacres during the 2016-2017 clearance operations. Four Rohingya IDPs and one Rakhine were injured in an attack by a Myanmar military-operated combat drone while they were seeking shelter in a Rohingya village.

In a different area of Buthidaung township, the junta shelled a Rakhine village, destroying many homes and forcing the villagers to flee. Rohingya in a nearby village were caught up in the fighting. Artillery shells landed in the area, killing a 7-year-old Rohingya boy. Soldiers entered the village and attacked Rohingya as they were fleeing, stabbing at least one man in the head and arm, in conduct reminiscent of the 2016-2017 clearance operations.

BROUK has also received reports that seven Rohingya, including women and children, were killed en masse in July when Border Guard Police opened fire on their small boat as it attempted to enter the Maungdaw township area from Bangladesh. Survivors were reportedly taken into military custody.

The escalating hostilities have already impacted vulnerable Rohingya IDPs confined to camps for the past decade. In early November, an historic mosque in Nidin ‘closed’ camp in Kyauktaw township was destroyed in shelling by the Myanmar military. 25,000 Rohingya IDPs in camps in Pauktaw township are becoming harder to reach with humanitarian assistance due to tight security at checkpoints, while Taung Paw camp in Myebon is currently completely cut off from humanitarian assistance.

The junta continues to exacerbate the circumstances that have contributed to the ‘slow death’ of the Rohingya group in Rakhine State. The regime denies Rohingya their basic rights through a complex set of restrictions on their movement, access to healthcare and humanitarian aid. It also persists with its routine practices of forced labour and extortion, which undermine livelihoods and impoverish the Rohingya group. The indefinite detention of around 138,000 Rohingya in camps under deplorable conditions for more than a decade has resulted in the preventable deaths of at least 42 young children and 10 women since the provisional measures were ordered. Moreover, the regime continues to criminalise Rohingya who try to flee these appalling conditions of life inflicted on them. At least 800 Rohingya have been arrested and detained over the reporting period, while dozens have lost their lives at sea.

The evidence documented by BROUK and presented in this latest briefer (together with five previous briefings) demonstrates that the Myanmar military’s conduct continues to cause irreparable harm to the Rohingya group. All the evidence points to the ongoing commission of the genocidal act of killings including at least one mass killing in the past six months – as well as causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. The junta continues to defy the provisional measures order and it must be held accountable.

BROUK is gravely concerned about the rapidly deteriorating, extremely volatile situation in Rakhine State. There is a terrible risk that Rohingya will once again experience the unthinkable: a repeat of the mass killings and other atrocities that characterised the ‘clearance operations’ of 2016-2017, driving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya out of their homeland.

The international community must find ways to leverage the provisional measures order, including by making concerted efforts to secure public hearings at the UN Security Council on the junta’s compliance with the order and coordinating follow-up actions.

Decisive, urgent action is needed now to prevent the unthinkable.

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