Security Council Briefing: Security Council Mission to Bangladesh and Myanmar

Statement by H.E. Lise Gregoire-van Haaren,
Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

New York, 14 May 2018

Thank you, Madam President.

I would like to start by thanking the Permanent Representatives of Kuwait, Peru and the United Kingdom for their briefings on our joint Security Council visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar. And I’d also like to join others in thanking them for organizing and co-leading the visit.

We were also glad to do our part during the Presidency of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in March to facilitate discussions to make the visit to both countries possible.

The visit provided an opportunity to assess the progress made in implementing the Presidential Statement of November, and to inform our further engagement as a Council.

We are grateful for the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar for their hospitality and willingness to engage with the Council. And I’d also like to thank all UN staff that has been involved in the organization and the briefings of the visit.

Please allow me to address three aspects:

  1. To begin, the impressions from the visit;
  2. Secondly the immediate steps to be taken;
  3. And thirdly, the urgent need for accountability for crimes against the Rohingya.

1. Impressions from the visit

Madam President, the visit left a deep impression on us all. And in particular the scale of the crisis, the number of refugee and the scale of the destruction of the villages.

In Cox’s Bazar we heard horrifying accounts from survivors of the violence.

We met a woman holding a 16-day old baby and she was looking like she didn’t know what to do with it. She was raped the night that her husband was killed and she didn’t know who the father was.

We met an elderly woman who saw members of her family being raped and then she was raped herself.

We met a girl of 7 or 8 years old who had deep scars on her skull, inflicted by knives and cuts, so imagine doing that to a child.

We met a girl of about 12 years old who had her upper thigh completely ripped open by a bullet. She was now paralyzed and could not go to school.

We met those children who had no dreams for the future, just the past to deal with. And several of them lost their parents, so they had to deal with it alone.  

We also witnessed the hospitality of the people and the government of Bangladesh, in hosting almost a million Rohingya refugees. Their generosity deserves our deep appreciation and support.

At the same time, with the monsoon season almost upon us, the challenges in the camps are not to be underestimated by any of us. Swift action is required to prepare the camps for the imminent possibility of floods. The UN Joint Response Plan is seriously underfunded.

It is therefore essential that the international community steps up their aid.

2. The immediate steps to be taken

Madam president, secondly, the immediate steps to be taken. Coming back from the visit, we cannot conclude otherwise, than that the outlook for a swift solution to the crisis remains bleak. A lot needs to be done before the Rohingya can return safely, and in a voluntary and dignified manner.

This Council’s Presidential Statement of November, that was reconfirmed in the press statement after the visit, is far from being implemented.

Quick steps can be taken to show Myanmar is truly committed. And we call on the Myanmar authorities to allow full access to the UN and humanitarian organizations. The swift conclusion of talks on a Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR and UNDP would be an encouraging first step.

Furthermore, initial efforts to implement the recommendations of the Annan Commission need to be followed up with meaningful and concrete steps. Steps towards recognition, protection, and citizenship for the Rohingya.

3. The need for accountability

Madam President, thirdly, the need for accountability. For every member of the Rohingya community I spoke with, justice featured high on their list of needs for them to feel safe enough to return. Without addressing the crimes committed against the Rohinyga, the decades old cycle of violence and discrimination cannot be broken. 

We welcome the Myanmar authorities’ expressed commitment to facilitate independent and credible investigations.

As a first step we call on Myanmar to allow access to the Fact-Finding Mission as well as the Special Rapporteur. Furthermore, we call on Myanmar to become a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC or to accept the jurisdiction of the court in accordance with article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute.

We hope for swift and decisive action in this regard. Otherwise it will be up to the international community to take its responsibility and consider further steps to bring about accountability, including referral to the International Criminal Court.

Conclusion

Madam President, in conclusion, the visit has made it clear to all of us that continued engagement and support from the international community is needed, including through the newly appointed Special Envoy of the Secretary-General.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands stands ready to play its part and to support decisive engagement from the Council through a resolution that reflects the large scale of the crisis.

Thank you.

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