Global concern for Rohingya | UN Burundi Inquiry recommends ICC

New satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch shows the complete destruction of the village of Chein Khar Li Satellite imagery © DigitalGlobe 2017

International pressure needed to help Rohingya

As the human rights and humanitarian crisis escalates in Myanmar, international, diaspora, and local civil society groups are calling for global assistance after a week of mass displacement, burning villages and a rising death toll. Rights group Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said it has confirmed more than 1,000 Rohingya deaths so far. Meanwhile, the UK and the USA have urged the UN Security Council to convene and discuss reports of mass civilian casualties, while the Prime Minister of India, where thousands of Rohingya refugees reside, will discuss the rising violence during a state visit beginning on Tuesday.

With the current situation recalling communal ethnic violence in 2012 and the displacement of 15,000 persons due to a major military operation in 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar expressed concern over links between justice vacuums for the marginalized Rohingya group and radicalization in northern Rakhine. Han Gyi, coordinator of ND-Burma, which has reported on ongoing grave abuses against civilians on ethnic grounds, including some by insurgents, said: “As long as there is impunity for human rights violations, they will continue. Without justice there can be no rule of law and no democracy.” 

President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Tun Khin, was adament that the situation could see no improvement without international pressure, stating: "The situation of the Rohingya in Burma can be resolved if the political will is there. It won't be easy but it can be done."

In its first resolution on Myanmar in nine years, the UN Security Council has expressed concern over violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state from where thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh, asking the government to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and re-establish law and order. An estimated 380,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled Myanmar and reached Bangladesh after a crackdown by Myanmarese security forces.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the situation best described as ethnic cleansing.

“When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, could you find a better word to describe it?” he told a news conference.

“I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country,” said Guterres, adding that he had spoken several times with Myanmar’s national leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.


UN Commission to ICC: Likely crimes against humanity in Burundi

United Nations investigators have concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi, including by high level government officials. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which was repeatedly blocked by the government, has requested that the ICC open an investigation into a situation of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and enforced disappearances as soon as possible.

Echoing earlier findings by rights groups like Amnesty International, the President of the Commission of Inquiry Fatsah Ouguergouz noted, “We were struck by the scale and the brutality of the violations. We also noted a lack of will on the part of the Burundian authorities to fight against impunity and guarantee the independence of the judiciary. As a result, there is a strong likelihood that the perpetrators of these crimes will remain unpunished.”

Lambert Nigarura, Chairman of the Burundi national Coalition for the ICC, welcomed the comprehensiveness of the Commission report and its potential to jumpstart an ICC investigation: “The UN report showed its techniques to reveal the truth. Then, it is high time the ICC opened investigations into crimes committed in Burundi."

The violent political crisis in Burundi, already the subject of an ICC preliminary examination and linked to President Pierre Nkurunziza's announcement that he would run for a controversial third term in 2015, has resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of 417,000 civilians. Burundi notified the UN of its intention to withdraw from the ICC in October 2016, with its withdrawal set to take effect on 27 October 2017.

Reaction (French): Burundian Coalition for the ICC


ICC investigations

CAR: Aid workers are being forced to withdraw from cities and villages due to the escalating violence. Médecins Sans Frontières has warned that the growing number of armed groups in CAR is making it impossible for aid workers to operate.

Darfur, Sudan: The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber has requested cooperation from Kazakhstan in the arrest and surrender of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the ICC should he enter its territory. 

DRC: In his continuing testimony at the ICC, Bosco Ntaganda has claimed that he enforced discipline in the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo and punished any fighter who attacked civilians.  

10 facts about the ICC Ntaganda trial


ICC preliminary examinations

Nigeria: The UK government has unveiled £200m in aid to fight Boko Haram, as human rights groups are urging the international community to scale up its humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad region, where a resurgence of the militant group has left at least 381 civilians dead since April.

Afghanistan: Afghan warplanes have killed at least 13 civilians near Herat and a supposed Nato airstrike killed 11 civilians in Logar as the USA steps up its use of airstrikes in the fight against insurgents.   

Colombia: The government and the country’s last active guerrilla group, the ELN, have announced a ceasefire as a key step towards sealing “complete peace” and ending Latin America’s longest civil war. 

Iraq: The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has reiterated its call for an ICC investigation into war crimes related to the abuse of detainees in Iraq by UK forces from 2003 to 2008.  

Opinion: Why the ICC must investigate UK crimes in Iraq


Campaign for Global Justice

A new report by Human Rights Watch has claimed that widespread and systematic torture employed by Egyptian security forces against political detainees could amount to crimes against humanity.

An award winning Sudanese human rights activist has been released following an 8-month prison sentence. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam was arrested by the government of Sudan on charges of treason, but has vowed to fight on and continue human rights work.  

Serbian prosecutors have charged 5 people with torturing and killing 20 civilians during the Bosnian War in the 1990s, most of whom were Serbian Muslims.

The former Sri Lankan ambassador to six nations in South America, accused of war crimes by human rights group the International Truth and Justice Project, has left his post in Brazil after completing his 2-year tour of service.

Pristina's Supreme Court has upheld a verdict convicting ten ex-members of the Kosovo Liberation Army of crimes against civilians during the 1998-99 conflict.  

Voices of civil society: Meet the activists fighting for global justice.


Around the world

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has come under fire for an apparent policy of violent repression, will reportedly not be attending the UN Human Rights Council next week 

Human Rights Watch have identified the arrest of Mohamed Fali, president of Algeria’s Ahmadiyya community, as a governmental intolerance for minority faiths. They are calling for his immediate release.  

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