Urgent Call for Accountability and Humanity: Addressing the Rohingya Crisis and Upholding International Obligations
East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
Six years ago this week, Myanmar’s military initiated its latest brutal campaign in a decades-long persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State (UNHCR, 24 August 2023). The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, recently called for accountability and urged the world to ensure the dignified return of Rohingya refugees to their homes (UNHCR, 24 August 2023; Asia News Network, 30 August 2023).
In what has been alleged to be a genocidal operation against the Rohingya, some 10.000 men, women, boys, girls, and newborns were killed, over 300 villages destroyed, over a million Rohingya have fled persecution and systematic discrimination to seek international refugee protection in Bangladesh, and more than 100,000 others are being held in closed displacement camps inside Myanmar (UNHCR, 24 August 2023). In a sign of their desperation, thousands more continue to attempt dangerous sea crossings from Myanmar and Bangladesh, too often ending in tragedy (UNHCR, 24 August 2023).
More must be done to hold the military to account for their repeated campaigns of persecution against the Rohingya, and for driving the country into its current human rights and humanitarian crisis (UNHCR, 24 August 2023). The lack of willingness on the part of the military to address systematic discrimination further exacerbates the crisis (UNHCR, 24 August 2023). The international community must not forget the Rohingya people or their host community in Bangladesh (UNHCR, 24 August 2023). Humanitarian appeals for supporting the Rohingya, both in Myanmar and in the camps in Bangladesh, need greater support and funding (UNHCR, 24 August 2023).
The situation described underscores significant violations of international human rights law. The alleged genocidal campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority raises grave concerns under the 1948 Genocide Convention, which obligates states to prevent and punish acts of genocide. Both Myanmar and Bangladesh are parties to these conventions, thereby bound to uphold these principles. Additionally, the principle of non-refoulement strengthened by customary international law prohibits the forced return of refugees to situations where their lives or freedoms are threatened. Myanmar's failure to address systematic discrimination exacerbates the crisis and violates obligations under various human rights treaties. Bangladesh, as a host country, must ensure that its treatment of refugees adheres to the principle of non-refoulement.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, recently called for accountability and urged the world to ensure the dignified return of Rohingya refugees to their homes (Asia News Network, 30 August 2023). In conclusion, the Rohingya crisis persists as a grave humanitarian challenge and a stark reminder of the importance of protecting human rights and preventing atrocities (Asia News Network, 30 August 2023). It is the collective responsibility of the international community to take decisive action, ensuring that the Rohingya can return to their homes with dignity and security, and that Myanmar is held accountable for its actions (Asia News Network, 30 August 2023). The international community must persist in holding Myanmar accountable, ensuring justice for the Rohingya, and providing necessary support to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
UNHCR. (24 August 2023). Comment by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Myanmar. Available at < https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/08/comment-un-high-commissioner-human-rights-volker-turk-myanmar>.
Asia News Network. (30 August 2023). Rohingyas deserve dignity, security, says UN Human Rights chief. Available at < https://asianews.network/rohingyas-deserve-dignity-security-says-un-human-rights-chief/>.