At Summit Today, Governments Must Address Underlying Causes Forcing Rohingya to Flee from Burma
Today, 29 May 2015, 17 states (chiefly from the Asia-Pacific region) will gather in Thailand to discuss the crisis of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants trapped at sea. Over the past few weeks, several Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia and Thailand, prompted international alarm by turning away hundreds of starving sea migrants. At one point, an estimated 6,000 migrants were stranded at sea, abandoned by their human traffickers, before Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to provide them with temporary shelter.
At today’s Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asian nations have an obligation to no\longer ignore the plight of the Rohingya in Burma, often referred to as the “world’s most persecuted minority.” As outlined by a statement signed by 60 civil society organizations, including the ICRtoP and 8 of its members, the Burmese government has escalated this humanitarian crisis via increasingly restrictive policies, practices and legislation, including through widespread sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls. Therefore, declared Human Rights Watch, regional governments should “exert pressure on Burma as the main source of the problem”, including by calling on Burmese officials to “end the repressive measures and denial of basic rights that have driven Rohingya to flee their native Arakan state over many years.” Only by encouraging and assisting Burma to halt its discriminatory citizenship and legal policies against the Rohingya can the international community fulfill its Responsibility to Protect the Rohingya from the atrocity crimes they currently face.
In the short and medium-term, as Amnesty International highlighted, international and regional actors at the conference must supply migrants with the desperately-needed humanitarian aid, coordinate search and rescue operations, allow boats carrying asylum seekers to land safely, and ensure that asylum-seekers undergo a fair refugee status determination procedure.
For more on Burma:
Though signs are emerging that negotiators from the government and ethnic rebel groups are closing in on a ceasefire accord, it is less certain whether the ceasefire accord will lead to a political dialogue, and thus a broader peace-building process, prior to general elections in 2015. Mass graves have been found at large, sophisticated, and now abandoned smuggling camps in Malaysia, believed to have housed Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants.
Zedi Feruzi, leader of the opposition party Union for Peace and Development, was shot and killed, leading activists to suspend talks with the government. The East African Community announced that it would hold a summit this Sunday to discuss the crisis. The Government underscored that it would not negotiate with actors on President Nkurunziza’s candidacy and claimed that the media had abused the practice of freedom of press by inciting insurrection. The government further made an appeal to its public for money to fund the upcoming election, after international actors withheld aid for the vote. Lithuania, the current president of the Security Council, stated that the “predominant” opinion among Council members was that Burundi’s June elections should be delayed.
Central African Republic:
Save the Children warned that more than 60% of CAR’s children have witnessed or been subjected to acts of extreme violence since March 2013. Evidence emerged that the United Nations knew about allegations that French peacekeepers had sexually abused children for months. French and Central African justice authorities announced that they were cooperatingin ongoing investigations on the accusations.
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Residents of a town in eastern DRC started a tax strike in protest of several rebel massacres that have occurred there.Congolese soldiers clashed with FDLR rebels, wounding six, as an agreement to move the Rwandan Hutu fighters from one transit camp to another fell apart.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
U.S., South Korea, and Japan announced that they would tie the DPRK’s rights records to nuclear talks, issues which the countries had previously dealt with separately.
Amnesty International reported that the military wing of Hamas carried out a campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings against Palestinians accused of “collaborating” with Israel and others during Israel’s military offensive against Gaza in the summer of 2014. A rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel on Tuesday.
Iraq began its operation to expel the Islamic State from Ramadi. Suicide bombings killed at least 17 Iraqi soldiers in Anbar. Shiite authorities in Baghdad have started restricting the entry of Sunnis displaced by the Islamic State. Iraq exhumed 500 bodies from mass graves in Tikrit, believed to be those of Iraqi soldiers killed by the Islamic State in June 2014.
Libya's internationally-recognized Government says that gunmen tried to assassinate the Prime Minister. Human Rights Watch warns that civilians are trapped in Benghazi and called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation.
International Crisis Group warned that Mali’s peace agreement must be strengthened if a resumption in fighting is to be avoided. Thousands of Malians marched in support of the agreement. A UN peacekeeper was killed by militants in Bamako. At least nine civilians were killed in a separatist attack in northern Mali, with Tuareg rebels accusing pro-government militias of executing the civilians. The UN stated that it was investigating the incident.
Boko Haram killed dozens in an attack in Borno. UNICEF reported that women and children carry out 75% of the suicide attacks in Nigeria. Fulani herdsmen killed 96 in Benue. Video footage captured near Boko Haram camps indicates that foreign fighters are among the group’s leaders.
AU Peace and Security Council renewed its call for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo on South Sudan. Uganda’s Parliament, in a new report, urged the government to pull its forces from South Sudan, though the Ugandan defense minister rejected the proposal. Paloch, an oil field in Upper Nile State (the sole region still pumping crude oil), has emerged as a prime rebel target. The loss of Paloch could spell disaster for the oil-dependent South Sudanese government. The UN estimated that over 40% of South Sudanese will face a severe food shortage over the coming months.
An estimated 3,000 civilians who fled militia attacks in East Jebel Marra two months ago are being terrorized by Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The Sudanese government said that it prevented a move by European states to give the ICC jurisdiction over crimes against women and children. The UN special rapporteur on violence against women called for aninquiry into the accusations of mass rape in Tabit, Darfur in November 2014.
Kurdish forces wrested control of 14 Assyrian villages from the Islamic State. The Syrian foreign ministry said that it wanted more coordination with Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State. Syria’s air force bombed an Islamic State-controlled air base in Raqqa and also carried out intense strikes to dislodge the Islamic State from Palmyra. The Islamic State reportedly executed over 200 after taking control of Palmyra last week. Opposition activists claimed that they have documentation of 18 cases of chlorine gas attacks since 6 March 2015. Turkey stated that it has reached an agreement “in principle” with the U.S. to provide air support to Syrian rebels. Hezbollah vowed to increase its participation in the civil war..
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The ICRtoP is extremely saddened to hear of the passing of renowned genocide prevention scholar Sheri Rosenberg last Friday. A leading voice in this field, her work will continue to impact the Responsibility to Protect for years to come.