London, 2 November 2012
The Rohingya of Myanmar have been subject to systematic, state sponsored attacks in Rakhine State, Myanmar, since June this year. The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has been monitoring the situation and making recommendations since the outset of the violence.
However, past recommendations made by ERT and other human rights organisations to the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh and to the international community have not been adequately acted on. In October 2012, a new outbreak of more intense and widespread violence has begun. The nature and extent of this new violence together with mass evictions and forced relocation of Muslims by security forces has resulted in claims of ethnic cleansing being made by many advocacy groups. ERT is of the position that unless decisive action is taken, the violence is likely to continue and increase, and will have a devastating impact on the Rohingya and other Muslim communities of the country, destabilising Myanmar and having security and human rights repercussions throughout the region.
Consequently, ERT today wrote to President Thein Sein of Myanmar, urging him to take immediate action to end the violence, provide protection and aid to all victims, allow full access to the international community and ensure that all perpetrators are brought to justice. ERT also issued an emergency report, drawing attention to the role played by Myanmar and the failure of the international community to respond to the situation in a strong and decisive manner. ERT appeals to key figures in the international community to act in accordance with the doctrine of responsibility to protect and address this crisis as a matter of urgency.
Since 21 October 2012, Muslims in Rakhine state, including stateless Rohingya and Kaman Muslims who are citizens of Myanmar, have been subject to intense, large-scale and sustained violence including killing, burning of homes and property, forced displacement and the denial of humanitarian aid. This violence has to-date resulted in the entire or partial destruction of Muslim communities, and has radically altered the ethnic and religious composition of areas of Rakhine state, raising concerns of ethnic cleansing. According to the UN, in recent weeks a further estimated 28,000 people have been displaced and at least 4600 homes have been destroyed. The Government – which has a long history of grossly underestimating such numbers – claims that 88 people have been killed. However, the claims of witnesses of brutal massacres and mass graves put the figure much higher.
ERT’s emergency report issued today draws attention to the situation and calls on both the government of Myanmar and the international community to respond immediately, to end the violence, protect victims and bring the perpetrators to justice. The report draws attention to the role played by the government of Myanmar and state security forces in inciting hatred against Muslims, turning a blind eye to violence perpetrated against them and engaging in the violence. It also raises concern over the independence and effectiveness of the government-appointed commission of inquiry, and consequently recommends that an independent, international inquiry be carried out.
Other recommendations made by ERT include:
ERT Recommendations to the Government of Myanmar
- Urgently take all necessary steps to end the violence and protect all individuals within the territory or subject to the jurisdiction of Myanmar, in an equal and non-discriminatory manner.
- Immediately prevent, investigate and prosecute all human rights abuses and crimes committed by security forces and civilians against Muslims in Rakhine State.
- Fully cooperate with UN agencies and international NGOs to enable the non-discriminatory provision of humanitarian assistance and support to all affected communities.
- Take all necessary steps to prevent future conflict by ensuring equal access to justice, repealing discriminatory laws, and restoring the rights of the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar.
- Integrate the principles of human rights, equality and non-discrimination into the legal reform process in Myanmar.
- Reform the citizenship laws to ensure all races and ethnicities are given equal and fair access to nationality without discrimination.
ERT Recommendations to the International Community
- Act in accordance with the doctrine of responsibility to protect, to investigate and prevent the committing of gross human rights violations against Muslim communities, which may amount to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity by Myanmar.
- Act to ensure the government of Myanmar takes immediate steps to end the violence and resolve the issues of displacement and segregation of Muslim communities in Rakhine State.
- Take all necessary steps to ensure the protection and security of the population in Rakhine State – in particular that Provide urgent humanitarian aid and coordinate efforts to reach all affected communities including victims in isolated or military-controlled areas and those who remain in their homes or communities.