Sunday, May 3, 2015

Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide Report on Rohingyas of Myanmar

Recently the museum staff of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide investigated the threats facing the Rohingya people.  They visited internment camps in the Rakhine state and spoke with some of the people living in the ghettos, separated from their Buddhist neighbors. They said, “We left Burma deeply concerned that so many preconditions for genocide are already in place. With a recent history of mass atrocities and within a pervasive climate of hatred and fear, the Rohingya may once again become the target of mass atrocities, including genocide.”

In the Annex to its report the center suggested "Possible Next Steps for Preventing Atrocities", which I quote below:

Addressing the early warning signs of genocide requires long-term strategies to counter hate and build resiliency, but from discussions with local authorities and international diplomats, policy planning for further reform does not appear to extend beyond national elections in late 2015. Even though the elections have the potential to further alter the disposition of the government, and could themselves be a trigger for new violence, significant, immediate effort is required by Burma’s politicians, religious leaders, and civil society organizers to address policies of discrimination and deep-seated hatred against Rohingya and other minorities. That is the only way to make genuine progress in protecting and re-integrating this community into the political, social, and economic life of the country. Listed below are some intermediate steps that can be taken by the Burmese government and the international community as the people of Burma pursue this ultimate goal.

THE BURMESE GOVERNMENT SHOULD:
• End all discriminatory laws and policies targeting the Rohingya, including those that restrict the freedom of movement and infringe on marriage rights and family choice.
• Revise the 1982 Citizenship Law so that it conforms to internationally recognized legal standards and does not exclude any ethnic group from citizenship. Clearly and publicly outline the process for applying for citizenship under any new law.
• Ensure that Rohingya living in camps and other restricted areas in Rakhine State have adequate access to food, health care, and education.
• Provide physical protection for humanitarian aid organizations delivering assistance throughout Rakhine State, and allow humanitarian organizations unhindered access to displaced populations so that they can serve more individuals and expand the services provided.
• Investigate attacks on Rohingya and other minority groups, and hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with internationally recognized legal standards.
• Partner with other governments and international agencies to monitor potential violence against Rohingya and other groups.
• Work with other governments and international organizations to coordinate strategies for preventing future violence and mass atrocities.
• Reject, or significantly revise in accordance with international human rights law, discriminatory pieces of legislation designated to purportedly “protect race and religion.”
• Encourage the free flow of information throughout Burma, including by promoting unimpeded access for local and international journalists and investigators to all areas of Rakhine State.

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SHOULD:
• Condition any agreements—including on preferential trade status, military training and provision of military equipment, concessionary lending by international financial institutions, or new large-scale development packages— on clear benchmarks that must be met by the government regarding increasing humanitarian assistance to Rohingya, protecting Rohingya voting rights, and ensuring that those responsible for anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim violence are held accountable.
• Articulate a credible set of consequences if the Government of Burma does not adhere to the benchmarks listed above.
• Privately support local civil society and interfaith leaders working to counter hate speech and promote tolerance through the provision of funding and technical assistance.
• Be prepared to introduce a new UN sanctions regime targeting funders and organizers of anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim violence.
• Press for the establishment of an office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burma and ensure that this office can freely access and report on the condition of the Rohingya.

You can view the entire report by clicking here.

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