UNSC reps may visit Myanmar, Bangladesh

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Updated at 12:50am on March 11, 2018

The United Nations Security Council is likely to send its representatives to Myanmar and Bangladesh to assess allegations of ethnic cleansing and genocide against minority Rohingya community in Rakhine of Myanmar amid demands to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
The Bangladesh government has expressed its readiness to facilitate a visit of UNSC representatives upon a request received in its headquarters in New York, diplomats said, adding that the delegations were highly likely to visit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar to get first hand understanding of the plights of the persecuted community.
The UNSC also requested the military-controlled Myanmar government to facilitate visits of its representatives to Rakhine.
The Myanmar authorities have, however, kept their decisions pending till Friday afternoon, diplomats in New York said.
The Bangladesh authorities were expecting a UNSC delegation this week in Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar plausibly subject to readiness of the Myanmar authorities to receive a similar, if not same, delegation in Rakhine, they said.
Diplomats representing the UNSC member countries and officials of the UN headquarters were expected to be included in the teams to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, officials said.
Five permanent members of the UNSC are China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the UN General Assembly are Bolivia, Côte dÂ’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland and Sweden.
Bangladesh government would provide the UNSC representatives’ local security only as the UN itself would arrange local hospitality and logistics for maintaining strict neutrality during the visit in both the countries, officials said.
UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Friday said stressed the need for referring suspected ‘acts of genocide’ committed against minority Rohingya community to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
‘We are saying there are strong suspicions that, yes, acts of genocide may have taken place. But only a court can confirm this,’ Zeid told a news conference in Geneva, according to Reuters.
Zeid told the UN Human Rights Council that reports of bulldosing of alleged mass graves were a ‘deliberate attempt by the authorities to destroy evidence of potential international crimes, including possible crimes against humanity’.
Yanghee Lee, UN independent investigator on human rights in Myanmar, observed that there was growing evidence to suspect genocide was committed and wanted prosecutions for crimes committed against entire ethnic and religious groups, according to a report published on Friday.
She said, in a report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council, that she was ‘increasingly of the opinion that the events bear the hallmarks of genocide and therefore calls in the strongest terms for accountability.’
‘The government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop, or condemn these acts must also be held accountable,’ she said.
The Hague-based ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals of a country, which is a party to the Rome Statute, for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, only when certain conditions are met.
The conditions include, among others, unwillingness and [or] inability of national courts to prosecute criminals. The ICC requires a referral from the United Nations Security Council for prosecuting individuals of a country which is not party to the Rome Statute.
The case of atrocities committed against Rohingyas would require a referral from the UNSC as Myanmar is not a party to the Rome Statute. About 123 UN member states are party to the Rome Statute.
Over 6,88,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing, since August 25, 2017.
The Myanmar authorities have been unceasingly denying access of the UN and international fact finding missions as there were allegations of brutally murdering about 6,000 Rohingyas in Rakhine state in security operations since August 25, 2017.
The ongoing Rohingya influx took the total number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to over 11,00,000 till, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.
The two governments signed three instruments in last four months starting on November 23, 2017, for return of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals sheltered in Bangladesh after October, 2016, as the Rohingya exodus from bordering Rakhine State continued.
Rohingyas trace their presence in Rakhine back centuries. But most people in majority-Buddhist Myanmar consider them to be unwanted Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh. The army refers to the Rohingya as ‘Bengalis,’ and most lack citizenship and basic human rights.