This situation report provides an overview of violence and human rights abuses against Rohingya within Rakhine State in Myanmar in June 2012. The Rohingya are a stateless, ethnic and religious minority who were arbitrarily deprived of a nationality in 1982, and have suffered systematic arbitrary and discriminatory treatment in Myanmar for many decades.
In this report, ERT presents its findings and observations on the legal obligations of the parties to this crisis, and makes recommendations to the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, the UNHCR and the international community. This is not intended to be a comprehensive situation report and it makes no attempt to estimate how many people have been killed, injured or displaced. It however presents recent findings as established within a short period of time through emergency research, in order to alert the international community and the governments concerned, and to demonstrate the need for independent monitoring and a comprehensive human rights and humanitarian assessment of the crisis.
In Myanmar, what began as sectarian violence has evolved into organised and large scale state sponsored violence against the Rohingya. The violence which began on 3 June 2012 has mainly occurred in Sittwe and Maungdaw. On 10 June, a state of military emergency was declared, after which the UN pulled its staff out of the area, leaving no international observers on the ground. On 29 June, it was announced that UNHCR staff had returned to Rakhine State.
It is evident that the military turned a blind eye to violence perpetrated by members of the majority Rakhine and also partook in violence against Rohingya themselves, further heightening this crisis. From 16 June onwards, the military became more actively involved in committing acts of violence and other human rights abuses against the Rohingya including killings and mass scale arrests of Rohingya men and boys in North Rakhine State. This has caused an increased proportion of men and boys to flee the country, resulting in increased incidences of rape of the women left behind, committed by Myanmar security personnel. Internally displaced Rohingya have not received sufficient humanitarian assistance from the state.
The volume and diversity of information collected by ERT, other researchers, numerous journalists and other organisations, collectively provide prima facie evidence that serious and widespread violations are taking place in Myanmar. At best, the state may be unable or unwilling to take control of the situation and stop such violations. At worst – and what appears to be most likely on the basis of the available evidence – both state and non-state actors have been responsible for human rights abuses which have been carried out in an organised and a systematic manner.
Bangladesh, in contravention of its international legal obligations, closed its border and has pushed many Rohingya who have fled the violence and persecution back into dangerous waters. The first boat with Rohingya refugees arrived in Bangladesh and was pushed back - refouled - on 11 June 2012. On 18 June, 139 persons in 8 boats were pushed back from Teknaf. However, more refugees continue to arrive. There have been no visible steps taken by the government of Bangladesh to provide humanitarian aid for the refugees, thus shifting this burden onto local residents.
The legal obligations of both states require them to protect all persons within their territories or subject to their jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are citizens, stateless or refugees. Both states appear to have violated the right to life, the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to food and shelter including the fundamental right to be free from hunger, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health of Rohingya. Bangladesh has also acted in violation of the rights to seek and to enjoy asylum and not to be subjected to refoulement of Rohingya refugees. The severity of the treatment of the Rohingya and the widespread, systematic nature of the violence additionally raises concern of crimes against humanity being committed by Myanmar. 5
ERT recommendations to the government of Myanmar include that it: urgently takes all necessary steps to end the violence and protect all individuals in Myanmar; fully cooperates with UN agencies to enable independent monitoring of the situation and the provision of humanitarian assistance and support to affected communities; brings martial law in the region to an end as soon as possible; conducts an impartial and transparent enquiry into the causes of the violence; takes all necessary steps to prevent future conflict by ensuring equal access to justice, repealing discriminatory laws, restoring the rights of the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar; and reduces statelessness in Myanmar by establishing clear paths towards the acquisition of citizenship and effective nationality for all stateless persons including the Rohingya.
ERT recommendations to the government of Bangladesh include that it: opens its borders to Rohingya refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar and refrains from refoulement or forcible return of all refugees, asylum seekers and persons of concern; fully cooperates with UN agencies and international NGOs to enable the provision of humanitarian assistance and support to all refugees; and fully cooperates with the international community in providing humanitarian support and protection in a fair and non-discriminatory manner to all long-term Rohingya refugees and persons of concern within Bangladesh.
ERT also makes recommendations to the UN, Member States and the international community in this report.