Regional human rights groups mapped key strategies targeting that the Rohingya people are at the centre of moves. Rights activists and professionals called the international community to expedite justice for atrocity crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity that have forced most of the community to flee Myanmar.
The strategic actions are believed to empower Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries. It should enable the community to engage with international justice mechanisms. The International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) and states that exercise universal jurisdiction are chosen as prioritised institutions and stakeholders for constant engagements. Broader efforts are required to halt and prevent further atrocities against Rohingya and other vulnerable groups in Myanmar.
The strategy was designed by rights activists and professionals from Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, India and Netherlands at a regional consultation to expedite international justice mechanism for Rohingya victims of genocide held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 13 – 15 April 2019. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) jointly hosted the meeting.
Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, Liaison Officer of Hong Kong based Asian Legal Resource Centre, said that both Rohingya participants and regional rights activists agreed that international justice is crucial to comprehensive and sustainable solutions to the crisis. “Without justice and guarantees of protection, moves to repatriate Rohingya to Myanmar, or move them to remote zones such as Bangladesh’s Bhashan Char, merely perpetuates the impact of crimes against the community,” said Ashrafuzzaman.
Debbie Stothard, Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), who facilitated several sessions of the meeting said: “We are excited that at the core of the strategy there is the commitment to empowering survivors of crimes and a priority for women and youth to take the lead.”
Sevan Doraisamy, Executive Director of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), a human rights organisation based in Kuala Lumpur, which co-hosted the meeting, emphasised: “It’s time that Malaysia lived up to its potential as a leader for the rule of law. It is clear that Malaysia’s commitment to the Rome Statute has critical implications for durable solutions to the Rohingya crisis, and human security in Asia.”
The Rohingyas, commonly described as the most persecuted people in the world, have been subjected to an increasingly vicious cycle of brutal human rights violations and forced displacement for several decades. Calls for justice fell on deaf ears until 2017, when atrocities and the forced deportation of close to a million Rohingya from Myanmar generated global alarm. Since then, the United Nations, its major bodies and many member states including Malaysia, have expressed support for accountability.
In September 2018, the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber-I of the ICC confirmed that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) could proceed to preliminary examination process and carry out a full-fledged preliminary examination on the crime of forced deportation of the Rohingya. The OTP’s preliminary examination also includes deprivation of fundamental rights, killing, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, destruction and looting. The crimes of persecution and other inhumane acts remain at the OTP’s disposal for further consideration.
International justice mechanism needs to prove itself by guaranteeing justice and ensuring reparation to the victims keeping global geographical balance. Justice should be administered and implemented before the victims’ trust on the international justice system disappears.