The Rohingya Crisis Exposed; whose responsibility? What’s next? By Ikram AIS

After the attacks performed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on the 25th of August 2017 on police outposts and an army base of the Military forces in Myanmar. The Military of Myanmar responded with cleansing operations targeting the Rohingya Muslims, forcing them to flee the country to Bangladesh, where they have been living there under destitute situations.

The Myanmar Union has more than 100 ethnic groups; among them, we distinguish the Rohingya group. The Rohingya are an ethnic group of more than 1.1 million people with a majority of Muslims .

Due to political and religious reasons, Myanmar issued the 1982 Act of Citizenship. This discriminatory law deprived the Rohingya of their right to obtain a citizenship in Myanmar, making them stateless , therefore, they have been living there as illegal immigrants as the country acknowledged them and as some unwanted elements in a Buddhism predominant country.

In the past years, thousands of Rohingyas have been fleeing the country after they have been subject to violence and abuse by the security forces. The attacks proceeded by the ARSA group on military forces on August 25, 2017, resulted in having the military of Myanmar burning villages in Northern Rakhine State, and committing violence towards civilians in Rakhine, Kachin and Khan states.

Amnesty International reported after the attacks of the 25th August, the military forces of Myanmar forced more than 702 000 persons to leave to Bangladesh, committing around 09 Crimes Against Humanity as they were stated in the 7th article of the Rome Statute of 1998. These crimes included rape, torture, murder, forced disappearances, starvation, and inhumane treatment.

On Mid-September 2018, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released a full finding of facts and called for the investigation and prosecution of Myanmar top military leaders for crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes.

Since these crimes are highly sensitive and dangerous, the international law recognizes the principle of universal jurisdiction. This principle is a tool to combat and prevent serious crimes acknowledged by the International Humanitarian Law from happening. The countries members of the Four Conventions of Geneva and the Protocol of 1977 share a responsibility of investigating with and prosecuting those that are known to have committed crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes. Regardless of their nationality or the place which these crimes took place.
Moreover, the UN Human Rights Council plays a major role in solving this crisis.

The Council can help a lot in collecting and analyzing evidence related to the issue and making pressure on the UN Security Council to refer these cases to the International Criminal Court.

This collected information could be used as evidences as well by other state members, which are willing to hold Myanmar officials and politicians accountable for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.

The previous report of Amnesty International stated that the authorities in Myanmar are unwilling to cooperate with the international community and the ICC in order to bring justice to the Rohingya and deliver these criminals to prosecution. The role of ICC comes in last resort, under the principle of complementarity.

However, since the Union of Myanmar is not a member of the Rome Statute it created a conflict for the International Criminal Court to rule in the crimes committed in Myanmar.

Therefore, since a part of one of the many crimes that were committed happened in Bangladesh- forced expulsion-, and since the latter is a member state of the Rome Statute, it gives the jurisdiction to the ICC to investigate and rule in this crime.

Still, the forced exodus of the Rohingya remain only one crime of the many committed crimes by the military forces, and the International Criminal Court needs to obtain more evidence. Usually, the investigation in such crimes can take years, knowing that the refugees of the Rohingya are struggling with malnutrition and other illnesses, living under poor situations where frequent elephant attacks threaten them in the camps in Bangladesh. Thus, it is highly crucial the UN creates a special body to proceed an independent and a quick investigation on these crimes in order to bring the criminals to trial.

The international community can also play a major role in pressuring the Myanmar government to collaborate in these investigations and in pushing Myanmar to amend its laws and signing and adopting many international conventions and treaties such as the one against torture and the Statute of Rome.

In addition, the country must also welcome the Rohingya refugees again among its community by amending the 1982 Act and by treating them equally and without any discrimination if they ever decide to return to their homes.