No excuse for delaying solution on Rohingya crisis

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Asianbangla Desk : UN Secretary General António Guterres on Tuesday called for ensuring accountability for the “horrendous persecution” of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and said there could be no excuse for delaying the search for dignified solutions that would allow Rohingyas to return home in safety and dignity.

He made the call at a meeting of the UN Security Council, a day after the release of an independent United Nations investigation into human rights abuses carried out against Rohingyas.

Guterres said that the disproportionate use of force against civilian populations and the gross human rights violations that followed could never be justified.

“I believe this report’s findings and recommendations deserve serious consideration by all relevant United Nations bodies.

“Effective international cooperation will be critical to ensuring that accountability mechanisms are credible, transparent, impartial, independent, and comply with Myanmar’s obligations under international law,” he said.

“I ask members of the Security Council to join me in urging the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with the United Nations, and to ensure immediate, unimpeded and effective access for its agencies and partners. We must also continue to press for the release of journalists who have been arrested for reporting on this human tragedy.”

Briefing the Security Council on the first anniversary of Myanmar’s violent crackdown, the UN chief said it was clear that conditions were not yet met for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees to their places of origin or choice.

Sweden and the Netherlands, two temporary members of the UNSC organ, urged the Security Council to refer the crimes to the International Criminal Court.

But China and the Russian Federation, two permanent members of the Security Council with close ties to Myanmar government, said the international community should stop putting pressure on Myanmar and let its government work out the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees with Bangladesh as soon as possible.

They argued that the crisis required a long-term, patient approach, and must be resolved through bilateral diplomatic efforts.

Guterres, recounting his experience of visiting the Rohingya camps last month, said that he has heard stories of horrendous persecution and suffering.

“One father broke down as he told me how his son was shot dead in front of him. His mother was brutally murdered and his house burned to the ground. He took refuge in a mosque only to be discovered by soldiers who abused him and burned the Quran,” he said.

The secretary general expressed concern regarding the dramatic humanitarian and human rights situations and also mentioned the risks to regional peace and security.

He said that despite the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the Myanmar authorities and UN agencies in June, the country’s leaders did not invest in reconstruction, reconciliation and respect for human rights necessary for all communities to live improved and resilient lives in Rakhine State.

Guterres’ call for action was amplified by famed actress Cate Blanchett, a UN goodwill ambassador for refugees, who said the focus of all the efforts must be to provide much-needed support inside Bangladesh while working to ensure conditions in Myanmar are conducive to [their] return.

Addressing the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “The world can no longer avoid the difficult truth of what happened,” adding that the world was watching to see whether the Security Council would take action and hold those responsible for the violence to account.

Sweden’s deputy UN ambassador Carl Skau went further, saying, “the gravity of the atrocities committed by the Myanmar security forces,” reinforced his country’s call for the Rohingya situation to be referred to the ICC, the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.

“We believe it is time to move forward and we need to consult among council members on a resolution to this end,” he said and stressed that the international community must shoulder its responsibility.

Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, British Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations, who presided over the Security Council session, said the Council had a duty to ensure that Rakhine State’s Rohingya population received justice and the prospect of a peaceful future.

“The Council must be prepared to use the full range of tools at its disposal to exert pressure on relevant parties, including the Burmese military,” he said.

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