London, 02 July 2012
The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) today launches its situation report Burning Homes, Sinking Lives: A situation report on violence against stateless Rohingya in Myanmar and their refoulement from Bangladesh. The report presents the findings and observations of ERT researchers.
The report, which includes testimony collected from over 50 interviews with Rohingya in the period 13-29 June 2012, paints an extremely bleak picture, which demands urgent action to prevent further human rights violations including loss of life, suffering, forced displacement and damage to property. In addition to the testimony of victims, the report reviews the legal obligations of the parties to this crisis and makes recommendations to the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, the UNHCR and the international community.
In Myanmar, what began as sectarian violence has evolved into large-scale state sponsored violence against the Rohingya. The violence began on 3 June 2012 and has mainly occurred in Sittwe and Maungdaw. It includes killings, rape and burning of houses. On 10 June, a state of military emergency was declared, after which the UN pulled its staff out of the area, leaving no international observers on the ground. On 29 June, it was announced that UNHCR staff had returned to Rakhine State. From 16 June onwards, the military became more actively involved in committing acts of violence and other human rights abuses against the Rohingya including killings and mass scale arrests of Rohingya men and boys in North Rakhine State.
Bangladesh, in contravention of its international legal obligations, closed its border and pushed back into dangerous waters many Rohingya fleeing the violence and persecution in Myanmar. The first boat with Rohingya refugees arrived in Bangladesh and was pushed back - refouled - on 11 June 2012. On 18 June, 139 persons in eight boats were pushed back from Teknaf. However, more refugees continue to arrive. No visible steps have been taken by the government of Bangladesh to provide humanitarian aid for the refugees, thus shifting this burden onto local residents.
The legal obligations of both Myanmar and Bangladesh require them to protect all persons within their territories or subject to their jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are citizens, stateless persons or refugees. In their treatment of the Rohingya, both countries appear to have violated the right to life, the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to food and shelter including the fundamental right to be free from hunger and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Bangladesh has also acted in violation of the rights to seek and to enjoy asylum and not to be subjected to refoulement. The severity of the treatment of the Rohingya and the widespread, systematic nature of the violence additionally raises concern of crimes against humanity being committed by Myanmar.
ERT Recommendations to the Government of Myanmar include that it urgently takes all necessary steps to end the violence and protect all individuals in Myanmar; fully cooperates with UN agencies to enable independent monitoring of the situation and the provision of humanitarian assistance and support to affected communities; brings martial law in the region to an end as soon as possible; conducts an impartial and transparent enquiry into the causes of the violence; and reduces statelessness in Myanmar by establishing clear paths towards the acquisition of citizenship and effective nationality for all stateless persons including the Rohingya.
ERT Recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh include that it opens its borders to Rohingya refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar and refrains from refoulement or forcible return of all refugees, asylum seekers and persons of concern; fully cooperates with UN agencies and international NGOs to enable the provision of humanitarian assistance and support to all refugees; and fully cooperates with the international community in providing humanitarian support and protection in a fair and non-discriminatory manner to all long-term Rohingya refugees and persons of concern within Bangladesh.
The report also makes recommendations to the UN, Member States and the International Community.
To read the ERT Situation Report, click here.