The perpetrators of one of the worst human tragedies of the world -- as atrocities in Myanmar targeting Rohingya Muslims are often described as genocide -- will be brought to justice, speakers at a panel launching a new campaign group said Wednesday.
The Justice for Rohingya Minority (JFRM) is a diverse group of lawyers, jurists, academics, campaigners, professionals, and community leaders joining forces in a legal campaign for the prosecution of those responsible for crimes against humanity in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, according to Kyaw Win, the group’s chair.
The launch meeting hosted by Amnesty International UK saw the attendance of activists and professionals who are familiar with the atrocities by Myanmar.
Jason McCue, an internationally acknowledged British expert on human rights and a speaker at the panel, thinks the Rohingya are disappointed by the international community continuing to argue over whether what has happened to them is genocide or not.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, McCue said: “This group have taken the first step to say, ‘We are going to look after our own interest and be active in pursuing justice ourselves, using the rule of law,’ and their momentum in doing that will propel the international community.”
“When you have a group like this, which has supporters and has momentum and righteousness on its path, it will win and it will speed it up by them taking matters into own hands,” McCue said.
“It will begin to raise questions … and getting results, which will embarrass the international community into action. They will end up with a legal definition of genocide in a universal jurisdiction in some other forum around the world,” he added.
“What this group is going to do is to ensure that every legal stone is turned over and looked at; and that’s the promise we are going to do and that’s the goal.”
Collective effort for justice
Kyaw Win, the JFRM chair and founder and executive director of the Burma (Myanmar) Human Rights Network, said: “This is a collective effort to reach justice for Rohingya people and I strongly believe that maybe one day the perpetrators of this genocide will be brought to justice.”
Also speaking to Anadolu Agency, Kyaw Win said: “As you see here, the world has failed to take action against the Rohingya genocide and we have failed the Rohingya people.”
“We have to work harder than before, and one of the options we will find here is the legal action as universal jurisdiction,” he said.
Another speaker was Ben Emmerson QC, former UN special rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights.
Emmerson, who currently sits as a judge of the Appeal Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, says he has to look into cases involving genocide.
“I am extremely privileged to have been asked to help shape the legal strategy for this campaign,” Emmerson said.
Explaining the technicalities about forming a strategy to bring the perpetrators to justice, he said: “Genocide is a highly subjective definition.”
“As a result, as often happens, it is not until after a genocide is over, that anybody is willing to call it a genocide… because if you do use the g-word, you are bound as a state … to take action, up to and including military action to prevent the continuation of the genocide,” he said.
Emmerson told the panel that during the course of the Rwandan conflict, the U.S. State Department had a debate over how to stop anyone acknowledging it as genocide as such recognition would force them to put troops on the ground.
“And that’s why you will see such resistance in the public domain to anyone acknowledging it is a genocide,” Emmerson said.
He said independent lawyers with access to international bodies would call what has been happening in Myanmar a genocide.
He said: “What really is absolutely critical” in Myanmar is what causing hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes.
“People don’t leave their homes in these kind of numbers -- 670,000 in one go -- unless something pretty terrible is happening in the area from which they flee.
“And that’s where the focus needs to be on the crimes being committed… on a horrific scale."
The launch also saw Professor Penny Green, author of the books Countdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar and Genocide Achieved, Genocide Continues: Myanmar’s Annihilation of the Rohingya, updating the panel on the latest situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Nijam Uddin, general secretary of the British Rohingya Community in the UK, and Kiri Tunks, head of the National Education Union, were among the other speakers at the panel, which was moderated by award-winning broadcast journalist and humanitarian activist Veronica Pedrosa.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, some 750,000 Rohingya, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar after Myanmar forces began a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.
At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, 2017, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report published last December, the global humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.