Stressing the need for upholding the universal values of human rights, Canadian Special Envoy Bob Rae yesterday said Myanmar must be held accountable for crimes against humanity.
He said the issue of accountability for potential crimes against humanity, particularly the crime of the forced deportation of Rohingyas, was now being considered by the International Criminal Court.
Talking to a select group of journalists at the Canadian High Commission in Dhaka, Rae said special attention should be given on gathering information of atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in a very systemic way to hold the perpetrators accountable and find a political solution to the Rohingya crisis.
The special envoy, who arrived in Bangladesh on Sunday on a two-day visit, toured the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
He said Bangladesh could not be left to feel that it was alone in dealing with the challenges of the Rohingya crisis. The burden was huge for a single country to deal with alone and the Bangladesh society needed to know that it was not alone, he added.
Mentioning that Canada has increased its assistance for the Rohingyas, the special envoy stressed the need for other countries to do the same.
Asked about imposing sanctions on Myanmar to compel it to take back Rohingyas, Rae said Canada has implemented targeted sanctions on some Myanmar military generals who were involved in crimes against humanity.
He said targeted sanctions carried out by some countries and organisations, including the European Union, were very successful. But several countries, including China, Russia and some of the neighbours of Myanmar, were not prepared to impose economic sanctions.
He said though it was not easy to find legal ways to hold people accountable, he was hopeful that it could be done.
About probable radicalisation of the large number of Rohingya youths, he said there were lots of young people in the refugee camps who have nothing to do and nowhere to go and nobody knew what they were watching on cellphones and what information they were getting.
He stressed the need for working together to make sure that the Rohingya youths could not be radicalised. He said it was very difficult to ensure education, livelihoods and work opportunities for Rohingyas during their stay in Bangladesh.
On the repatriation of Rohingyas, he said conducive conditions needed to be created in Rakhine State for their safe return. “We can’t morally and legally send people back to a condition that is not safe.”
Rae said the Rohingya crisis would not be solved overnight and it was going to take a lot of time and efforts to resolve the decades-old crisis. He, however, wished that people could return to Myanmar as quickly as possible.
SHIFT IN PLANS MUST: UN
The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, yesterday said the Myanmar government’s failure to redress discriminatory laws against the Rohingyas made it impossible for them to return home anytime soon.
“There must therefore be a shift to medium and longer term planning in Cox’s Bazar,” said Lee who ended her 10-day visit to Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar on Sunday.
She said the Rohingya refugees would not be returning to Myanmar soon as it was clear that the Myanmar government made no progress or shown any real will to dismantle the system of discrimination in the country’s laws, policies and practices, and to make Rakhine State safe, reports UNB.
“The refugees I spoke with in Cox’s Bazar expressed deep concerns, disappointment and anger over the lack of consultation on their fate so far,” she was quoted as saying in a statement received from Geneva.
The special rapporteur said three things were urgently needed to ensure the future of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. They are: access to education; meaningful livelihood opportunities and vocational training for women and men; and freedom of movement.
Lee expressed dismay that the democratic space in Myanmar continued to deteriorate, with repressive laws continuing to be used for suppression.
In the northern states of Kachin and Shan, she said, the Tatmadaw was violating international humanitarian law by allegedly using civilians trapped in conflict zones as human shields, and increasingly constraining humanitarian relief for civilians in need. “This must be stopped immediately.”
She also reiterated her call on the international community to establish an accountability mechanism for Myanmar.