Security Council Briefing: Myanmar

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

New York, 24 October 2018

“I was eight months pregnant. They stamped and kicked my stomach with their boots, and then stripped me naked. I was blindfolded and hung by my wrists from a tree. I was raped nine times. They left me tied to the tree.

This is but one of the many horrendous accounts of Rohingya survivors, as reported by the Fact-Finding Mission.

These stories shock our collective conscience and implore us to act.

Mr President,

Let me take this opportunity to thank Mr. Darusman for his briefing to us today, as well as for his efforts in delivering a substantive report.

It is important that the Council hears directly from relevant human rights bodies, since it has the authority to refer situations to the International Criminal Court.

Many issues deserve our urgent attention, such the lack of access to Rakhine State, the need to create a conducive environment for repatriation through implementation of the Annan recommendations, and the fate of the detained Reuters journalists.

Today, however, I will focus on accountability and make three points:

  • Firstly, on the findings of the Fact Finding Mission;
  • Secondly, on the road to accountability;
  • Thirdly, on the urgent need to respond.

1. Findings of the Fact Finding Mission

The report of the Fact Finding Mission is deeply worrying. They have based their findings on 875 in depth interviews with victims and eyewitnesses that show the same clear pattern of conduct by the military, border guard police and vigilantes. Their analysis shows convincingly that the gravest crimes under international law have been committed in Rakhine State.

The Mission furthermore concludes that, on reasonable grounds, the factors allowing the inference of genocidal intent are present, and that the crimes committed against the Rohingya may even amount to genocide. It stresses the need for a competent court of law to determine whether specific individuals are guilty of these crimes.

These findings cannot simply be taken note of and then set aside. They implore the international community to act.

2. Accountability

Mr President, this brings me to my second point: the need to ensure accountability for these crimes. The Fact Finding Mission’s report highlights the urgent need for prosecutions for the gravest crimes under international law, to hold those responsible to account.

Justice for the victims is an end in and of itself. But it is also an essential prerequisite to prevent this from happening again.

Decades of discrimination against the Rohingya followed by complete inaction have brought us to this point. We cannot afford to respond with inaction again and allow repetition of these gruesome acts. Neither in Rakhine State nor across other parts of Myanmar where the same perpetrators are targeting other minorities.

We can see this happening now in Kachin and Chan.

A meaningful effort towards accountability can also be a means to ensure that the Rohingya feel safe enough to voluntarily return to their places of origin in Myanmar. We would like to be hopeful about the National Commission of Inquiry. The Myanmar government, however, in the past has repeatedly failed to genuinely prosecute perpetrators of human right violations.

We recall the Fact Finding Mission’s conclusion that it is unlikely that Myanmar’s judiciary can deliver on a fair and independent trial. To make this happen we need to step up international involvement. The creation of the Independent Mechanism by the Human Rights Council is a crucial first step to enable future prosecutions. Preserving evidence is key.

We strongly urge the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with the Independent Mechanism and all other human rights mechanisms. Still, holding the perpetrators accountable for the most serious crimes is beyond their mandate. The International Criminal Court was created for this purpose exactly.

3. Urgent need to respond

Mr. President, this brings me to my final point, the urgent need to respond. Coordinated action by this Council, including through its Presidential Statement of November 2017 and our visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh in April, have resulted in incremental change for the better. However, the pace has been slow.

The Council has engaged constructively with the Myanmar government but need to conclude that this approach has yielded minimal results.

We cannot allow Myanmar to play for time while the fate of the Rohingya remains unchanged. The international community cannot rely on the generous hospitality of Bangladesh forever.

The findings of the FFM demand action. Not only from the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly or the Special Envoy. It is time this Council takes its responsibility.

We need to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court and use all tools available to us to create meaningful change on the ground, including targeted sanctions and an arms embargo.

Much remains to be done to ensure the Rohingya can safely return to their homes and continue to live their lives in Myanmar, as they deserve.

Myanmar needs to show progress. The time to act is now.

Thank you.

©UN Photo/Evan Schneider