#UN; #Racism; #HumanRights; #Discrimination; #Poverty; #EnvironmentalRacism
Ecuador (Africa), Dec 23 (Canadian-Media): Ecuador must implement and enforce laws and policies to protect the rights of Afro-Ecuadorians, the UN Working Group on People of African Descent said on Monday, calling for an end to the “discrimination, exclusion and extreme poverty they suffer.”
A child stands in front of his house in Cayapas, Ecuador. In this area community schools have been set up by UNICEF in partnership with the local Catholic church, to provide basic quality education to children living in this remote area, where the vast majority of the population is Afro-descendant. Image credits: © UNICEF/Donata Lodi
After visiting the country, the independent UN human rights experts concluded that the Government must step up efforts to enforce the law and implement plans to end racial discrimination suffered by Afro-Ecuadorians and people of African descent.
“People are suffering particularly in their ability to access justice, security, land, clean water, education, healthcare, housing and economic opportunity,” said Ahmed Reid, Working Group Chair, in a statement he presented.
He pointed out that although only 7.2 percent of the population are Afro-Ecuadorians, they constitute 40 per cent of those living in poverty.
The Working Group drew particular attention to the province of Esmeraldas, where nearly 70 per cent of the population is of African heritage.
“Esmeraldas is one of the poorest provinces in Ecuador”, said Mr. Reid, noting that 85 per cent of people live below the poverty line, less than a quarter are able to access the most basic services and 15 per cent are illiterate”.
While welcoming the Government’s national initiatives to combat racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance faced by Afro Ecuadorians, the UN experts maintained that “much work remains to be done to target these unacceptable levels of exclusion and poverty”.
With systematic contamination of the environment and their water supplies, intimidation of their communities, and an insufficient response by the State, the experts lamented that people of African descent are also suffering “environmental racism”.
In conclusion, they said that “the State should not remain indifferent to human rights abuses and violations by extractive industries and other companies”, but instead “end impunity for human rights violations and environmental racism.”
For his part, Ricardo Sunga, one of the human rights experts, praised the progressive provisions of the country’s Constitution that recognized the collective rights of people of African descent.
s are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
The full report and recommendations of their 16 to 20 December visit will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September.
#UN; #BigGlobalStories; #DecadeInReviewPartOne
United Nations, Dec 23 (Canadian-Media): As we prepare to enter the 2020s, UN News takes a look back at some of the big stories on our global patch, that unfolded between 2010 and 2019: welcome to our three-part Decade in Review, UN reports said.
From left: Malala Yousafzai attends an education event at UN Headquarters; People walk along Port-au-Prince streets following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; UN peacekeeper on patrol in Kidal, Mali; Smoke drifts into the sky from buildings and houses hit by shelling in Homs, Syria: Image credit: UN Photo
Part one highlights period between 2010 and 2013 focuses on the Haiti earthquake, the beginning of the ongoing Syrian conflict, Malala Yousafzai's inspiring work in favour of girls’ education, and “the world’s most dangerous UN mission”, in Mali.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) stands beside the remains of UN Headquarters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino
Haiti, already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere was hit On Jan 12 by devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake killing hundreds and thousands of people (220,000 according to Haitian Government figures), and causing severe damage to buildings.
An increase of 3,500 peacekeepers for Haiti, on top of the 9,000 already in the country, to reinforce MINUSTAH was authorized by the Security Council, a week after the tragedy, to help with recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts. Former US President Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy for Haiti, was also closely involved with these efforts.
The UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, was also hit by the quake when the Christopher Hotel, housing the Mission HQ, collapsed and 102 UN staff died, including the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Haiti, Hédi Annabi, his deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa and Acting Police Commissioner Doug Coates of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
International teams were able to rescue 132 UN workers including Jens Kristensen, who managed to survive, despite spending five days trapped under the rubble of the building. Mr. Kristensen, a senior humanitarian worker, had already worked through the 2002 earthquake in Afghanistan, the 1999 quake in Turkey and one in Ecuador in 1987, although this was his closest brush with death. Escaping with little more than a bruise on his upper arm and a scratch on his right hand, Mr. Kristensen was back at work three days after his rescue.
Look back at some of the other UN-related stories in the 2010 Year in Review
2011: SYRIA CONFLICT BEGINS
A woman and children wait outside a medical centre in Al-Radwanieh village, rural Aleppo, Syria. Image Credit: UNICEF/Khouder Al-Issa
In April 2011, the then Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, phoned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to tell him that he was “greatly disturbed” by reports of violence in the country, following demonstrations which were part of a broader pro-democracy movement across North Africa and the Middle East that led to the downfall of long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, which became known as the Arab Spring.
Neither of them could have known that, eight years on, the conflict would still be ongoing, provoking in the meantime a major refugee crisis, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, and a major humanitarian disaster: over 5,6 million people have fled Syria since 2011, and some 6,6 million are thought to be displaced within the country, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
Today, the fighting is far from over, but the UN has been working hard since 2011 to find a political solution to this highly complex conflict. In 2019, UN-brokered talks brought together 150 representatives from the Government, opposition and civil society, for the first face-to-face talks in five years.
Without making any promises that the talks will end the suffering of the Syrian people, the UN Envoy to the country, Geir Pedersen, told the Security Council in November that they could be a “door-opener” to finally providing a solution to the country’s brutal conflict.
Watch the 2011 Year in Review
2012: Malala becomes ‘the most famous teenager in the world
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (left) meets with Malala Yousafzai, global advocate for girls’ education and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Image credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Born and brought up in the volatile Swat Valley, in the northwest of the country, Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai known for speaking out in favour of the education of girls, and highlighting the atrocities of the Taliban came to prominence in 2010 by her feature story in New York Times about her life there and the clash of Pakistani military with Taliban fighters.
In October 2012 on her way back from school, Malala, and two other girls, were shot by a Taliban gunman: she was hit in the head by a bullet, but survived and eventually recovered.
The attack was widely condemned by the world and on Human Rights Day that year, a special tribute to Malala was held at the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), pushing for action to ensure every girl’s right to go to school, and to advance girls’ education as an urgent priority.
Malala’s activism and profile have only grown since the assassination attempt. She won several high-profile awards, including the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (alongside Indian social reformer Kailash Satyarthi), and became a UN Messenger of Peace in 2017, with a special focus on girls’ education.
More UN-related stories in the the 2012 Year in Review
2013: UN mission set up to protect civilians in Mali
In this UN’s ‘most dangerous mission’ there were severe and regular casualties from the activities of armed groups in the north of the country which includes deadly inter-ethnic clashes.
Established in April 2013, MINUSMA, the UN Mission in Mali, when the Security Council voted to approve a 12’600-strong operation to stabilize the country; protect the local population, as well as UN staff and cultural artefacts; and ensure the flow of humanitarian aid to needed persons.
The creation of the Mission came in the wake of fighting which broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, leading to the occupation of Northern Mali by radical Islamists.
Despite the presence of MINUSMA, the situation in the country is extremely challenging for the Blue Helmets in Mali. In December 2019, a UN human rights expert described the security situation as “critical”, with unprecedented incidents of communal violence and deadly attacks from armed groups: in an interview with UN News, Mbaranga Gasarabwe, the UN Deputy Special Representative in Mali, explained that the Mission is part of a wider effort to contain terror groups in the wider Sahel region, which include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger, as well as Mali.
Get an overview of the year’s stories in the 2013 Year in Review
#ILA; #DignityatWorkTheAmericanExperience; #UN; #U.S.; #LouisianaCrawfishPromotionandResearchBoard
United States, Dec 22 (Canadian-Media): The International Labour Organization (ILO) is marking its centenary in 2019 and as part of the commemoration has launched a photography project called “Dignity at Work: The American Experience” to document the working life of people across the United States. UN News joined the ILO on a visit to the southern US state of Louisiana, UN reports said.
Heath Leger (left) plants crawfish pots in a field in Louisiana in the United States.
Image credits: ILO Photo/John Isaac
Heath Leger works for Chez Francois Seafood, a family business run by his brother in Scott, Louisiana. He harvests freshwater crawfish, small crustaceans which resemble lobsters. The farm is 120 acres in size and was set up by the brothers’ father.
Heath Leger worked in Louisiana’s oil fields for 11 years, but automation led to the loss of some 70-80 jobs.
Heath Leger has been working on and off for Chez Francois Seafood, a family business in Scott, Louisiana for most of his life. ILO Photo/John Isaac
“When I grew up crawfish was not a delicacy, only people in the swamp ate it. Now it’s a global billion-dollar industry and you can find crawfish in pretty much every country. I think the US eats more crawfish than it produces, so we import from abroad.
My dad got into the seafood industry when I was 12, so 40 years ago, so I have been in and out of this work for most of my life. I have a passion for it, my heart is in it; to me it’s about providing a service and satisfying the customer, making someone smile.
There’s nothing easy about this job. It’s a lot of work. It’s non-stop, sitting in that boat, driving with your feet; you’re doing five things at one time. It’s hot, there’s mosquitoes, it’s sweating, you’re messing with fish…it will chip away at you. But it’s rewarding. At the end of the day you’re dog-dead tired but you have a boat full of crawfish. It takes a special kind of person to do this job, it’s not for everyone. If you don’t like getting dirty this is not for you, I tell you that. I’ve seen myself up to my waist in mud already.
Today, I’m setting pots to catch the crawfish. Two thousand pots can be set in 120 acres and each pot can hold between three to six pounds, at least in the high season in the spring and early summer.
This is God’s country; it’s outdoors. I mean where else can you get this. You can’t go to the movies and get this, there’s nothing like it.
Most people have no idea how the crawfish ends up on their plate. It’s important to know where your food comes from. There are two types of people; those who care about what they eat, that happens to be me, and others who do not care what they eat.
I’m 52 years old and I’m still in great shape, because I eat right. When it comes to crawfish, I would eat an American-harvested crawfish seven days a week. I don’t have anything against crawfish harvested in foreign countries, but I don’t know what they are raising the crawfish in, what they’re feeding it. I want to know that.
Louisiana produces more than 90 per cent of all crawfish in the United States, and the industry makes more than $300 million annually, creating 7,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board.
Crawfish, are small freshwater crustaceans which resemble lobsters. ILO Photo/John Isaac
My dad built a business on quality not quantity, providing the customer with the best quality product. And, so our business has grown through word-of-mouth recommendations.
His dream before he left and went home [passed away] was to leave a legacy that would carry on for generations. And that’s what we have done, well my brother mostly. My dad said when a man loves what he does, he never works a day in his life.”
United Nations, Dec 18 (Canadian-Media): Obstacles to any lasting deal between Israel and Palestine continue to mount, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told Security Council members on Wednesday, and only “concrete action” towards a two-State solution will change that dynamic, UN reports said.
The UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace addressed the Security Council on Wednesday, asking for more funding for the occupied territories. About 76 per cent of funds requested for the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2020 target the Gaza enclave. Image credit: UNRWA
Nikolay Mladenov’s briefing covered all too familiar ground, as he grimly recounted continuing violence against civilians on both sides, continuing incitement, continuing deterioration in relations, and continuing backsliding on settlement building, and overall political progress.
Since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2334 in 2016, aimed at curbing settlement expansion, the situation on the ground “has only deteriorated”, said Mr. Mladenov: “Settlements have expanded significantly, demolitions have accelerated, violence and incitement have continued”.
Furthermore, “achieving intra-Palestinian unity remains elusive, and credible negotiations have yet to be launched. I remain greatly concerned by the persistent lack of progress towards ending the occupation and realizing a negotiated two-State solution”, he added.
Renewed commitment needed
“As I have consistently stated, it is not enough to call for the renewal of our collective efforts to this end, we must take concrete action.”
Without the renewed commitment of both Israel and Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza towards getting peace talks back on track, “the situation will continue to worsen”, he warned.
“I once again urge leaders on all sides to summon the necessary political will to take concrete steps in support of ending the occupation and realizing a lasting peace, resulting in two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace with secure and recognized borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States.”
A year on from the start of emergency humanitarian funding for the Gaza enclave, combined with economic interventions to prop up the faltering economy, the situation remains fragile, said the Special Coordinator.
“Security risks abound, movement and access restrictions remain severe…Some of the investments made as a result of efforts by the United Nations will end on 31 December, and without additional funding and a durable Israeli and Palestinian commitment, the situation in Gaza could, once again, be pushed to the brink of collapse”, he added.
“The stakes are too high to allow this to happen, all stakeholders must act to prevent the ongoing crisis in Gaza from deepening further.”
Support the 2020 funding plan
Mr. Mladenov also called on Member States to support the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for the occupied Palestinian territories, launched on 11 December.
The 2020 HRP appeals for $348 million to provide basic food, protection, health care, shelter, water and sanitation to 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
#UN; #VenezuelaMisery; #HumanRights; #Observatory of Social Conflict
Geneva, Dec 18 (Canadian-Media): Demonstrations in Venezuela must be allowed to take place ahead of elections in 2020, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Wednesday, citing continued reports of harassment, threats, and detention by intelligence services and security forces, UN reports said.
Speaking at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet described ongoing misery for the country’s poorest citizens, as they live with hyperinflation.
Today, their minimum wage “only covers 3.5 percent of the basic food basket”, she added, amid “failures in public service” including life-saving healthcare for children.
Alleged extrajudicial killings have also taken place since August, Ms. Bachelet insisted, a feature of previous warnings by her Office, that have also highlighted the excessive use of force against demonstrators, arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture.
The victims of these alleged killings were “mainly young men (targeted) by members of the Special Action Forces (FAES) in the context of security operations carried out in marginalized neighbourhoods”, she said.
Based on information supplied by Venezuela’s Attorney General, the High Commissioner said that since August 2017, 770 officials have been accused of human rights violations, of whom “at least” 55 have been charged with 68 counts of homicide.
“It is important to know the total number of complaints of human rights violations received by the Attorney General’s Office during this period, including for alleged extrajudicial killings, in order to evaluate the impact of the work of the Attorney General’s Office in this area,” Ms. Bachelet said.
Earlier this month, the Human Rights Council announced the appointment of three investigators who will serve on its Fact-finding Mission on Venezuela.
The development is in line with a Human Rights Council resolution in September to urgently dispatch a mission to Venezuela “to investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment since 2014 with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims”.
Protests in their thousands
Citing information from the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict that more than 16,400 protests have taken place so far this year – with 4,433 in the last three months – the High Commissioner noted that most of them were “led by professionals engaged in education, health, and industry, protesting poor working conditions and the lack of supplies and basic equipment in schools and hospitals”.
Amid national protests last month by members of the opposition, students and Government supporters, Ms. Bachelet highlighted how “considerable” security forces were deployed against those not supporting President Nicolas Maduro.
An agreement has also been reached between the High Commissioner’s Office and Venezuela to install two UN human rights officers in Caracas, granting them access “to the whole country, including to detention centres”, she said.
“My Office appreciates the willingness of the authorities to review the progress of investigations of suspected extrajudicial killings in the context of security operations and of deaths that occurred during the 2017 protests,” Ms. Bachelet added.
In response to Ms. Bachelet’s oral update, the delegation for Venezuela denied that there was a crisis in the country, before condemning “unilateral” sanctions imposed by the United States.
By 2020, exodus set to reach 6.5 million
To date, 4.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country, High Commissioner Bachelet said - citing data from the Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants – and by the end of next year, that number is expected to reach 6.5 million.
Linked to this ongoing exodus, Ms. Bachelet expressed concerns that neighbouring host countries had taken to demanding “heightened entry requirements”.
Just getting out of Venezuela is proving more difficult than ever, the High Commissioner continued, since Venezuelan authorities increased the cost of a passports by 70 per cent – “a cost equivalent to 54 minimum salaries”.
This, in turn, had led to an increase in people resorting to people-smugglers and traffickers and the disappearance of three boats bound for the Caribbean between April and June this year, with 102 men, women and children on board.
#UN; #India; #ExpeditationOfCitizenshipForCertainReligiousMinorities; #HumanRights; #UNHumanRights; #OHCHR
India, Dec 14 (Canadian-Media):A new law in India which expedites citizenship for certain religious minorities has been criticized by the UN human rights office for being “fundamentally discriminatory in nature”, UN reports said.
Photo of New Delhi, India. Image credit: UN India
The amendment to the Citizenship Act gives priority to Hindus, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians resident in India before 2014, but excludes Muslims, including minority sects.
“Although India’s broader naturalization laws remain in place, these amendments will have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality”, Jeremy Laurence, a spokesperson with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said on Friday.
India’s Parliament passed the controversial law on Wednesday, which has sparked protests and clashes in several locations.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Mr. Laurence said it appears to undermine India’s commitment to equality before the law, as enshrined in its Constitution.
He added that last December, India joined the international community in endorsing the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, which commits countries to ensure that all measures governing migration are based in human rights.
“All migrants, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to respect, protection and fulfilment of their human rights,” he said.
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Furthermore, while protecting persecuted groups is welcome, the UN human rights office said this should happen through a “robust” asylum system based on equality and non-discrimination, and which applies to all people regardless of race, religion, national origin or other status.
“We understand the new law will be reviewed by the Supreme Court of India and hope it will consider carefully the compatibility of the law with India’s international human rights obligations”, said Mr. Laurence.
Meanwhile, international media outlets are reporting that two people were killed and many others injured, in demonstrations held in northern India on Thursday to protest the new measure.
OHCHR has urged the authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly, while all sides should refrain from resorting to violence.
#UN; #Protests; #HumanRights; #UNHumanRights; InternationalHumanRightsViolation
Chile, Dec 13 (Canadian-Media): During the recent mass protests which led Chile to declare a state of emergency, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a report published on Friday that international human rights norms had been violated by both police and army personnel, which should be prosecuted, UN reports said.
In a new report, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that demonstrations in Chile were deeply rooted in grievances related to inequality and non-discriminatory access to human rights.
Image credit: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
The 30-page report based on research during the first three weeks of November, extensively details multiple allegations, including torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence by the police against people held in detention.
The leader of the UN mission, Imma Guerras-Delgado, told journalists in Geneva, that the overall management of demonstrations by the police “was carried out in a fundamentally repressive manner.”
When a student protest in October over subway prices turned into a nationwide movement against the Government, peaceful demonstrations swept across the country.
Although the great majority of detainees have now been released, official figures revealed that more than 28,000 people were jailed between 18 October and 6 December – many arbitrarily.
The research team conducted 235 interviews with victims and 60 others with police officers, including some of those injured during the protests.
“The police have regularly failed to distinguish between people demonstrating peacefully and violent protesters”, the report said.
Moreover, it documented 113 specific cases of torture and ill-treatment, and 24 cases of sexual violence against women, men and adolescent girls and boys, perpetrated by members of the police and army, while noting that the National Human Rights Institution had filed criminal complaints relating to hundreds of other such cases.
Citing the Ministry of Justice figures, the OHCHR report revealed that up to 10 December, nearly 5,000 people were injured, including nearly 2,800 police officers, but noted other sources had indicated higher number had suffered injuries.
Citing some 350 people with injuries to their eyes or faces, the report said that “alarmingly high number…provides a strong basis to believe that ‘less-lethal weapons’ have been used improperly and indiscriminately, against international principles on minimizing the risk of injury.”
It noted that while eye injuries mainly resulted from shotgun pellets, some cases were “due to the use of chemical irritants, in particular tear gas and, in some instances, from impacts from tear gas canisters.”
Pointing out that the authorities “had information regarding the extent of the injuries as early as 22 October”, the report maintained that those responsible failed to adopt timely measures to stop the use of less-lethal weapons.
“Prompt action by the relevant authorities could have prevented other people suffering serious injuries”, it spelled out.
“Immediately end the indiscriminate use of anti-riot shotguns to control demonstrations”, was one of the recommendations the report made to the Chilean State.
It also said that tear gas should only be used “when strictly necessary and never inside education and health establishments”, adding that police officers should receive clear instructions on proper use, and ensure that canisters “are always fired at a high angle and never horizontally, according to international standards.”
Prompt action by the relevant authorities could have prevented other people suffering serious injuries -- OHCHR report
In its conclusions, the report observed that “multiple root causes, including social and economic inequality” had prompted the demonstrations and that the majority of protesters “have done so in a peaceful manner”.
The OHCHR report also upheld specific measures to rectify police practices and called on the Government to “ensure that security forces adopt measures to guarantee accountability for human rights violations, and duly recognize such violations.”
“Recognizing and learning from what happened, we should look forward in a constructive way,” said Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said.
The report also prescribed a follow-up mechanism, within three months, to evaluate the implementation of recommendations.
“This follow-up mechanism should aim to establish measures to prevent the recurrence of the sad and troubling events that have engulfed Chile over the past two months – especially as protests are continuing in different parts of the country, albeit with less intensity, and we continue to receive allegations of human rights violations”, concluded Ms. Bachelet, underscoring that the mechanism’s work “should be made public.”
United Nations, Dec 11 (Canadian-Media): Myanmar will have “no tolerance” for human rights abuses committed in Rakhine state and will prosecute the military, if war crimes have been committed there, Aung San Suu Kyi told the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s main judicial body, on Wednesday.
Aung San Suu Kyi appears at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 11 December 2019. Image credit: ICJ/Frank van Beek
Ms. Suu Kyi was testifying in defence of her country, which is facing charges of genocide committed against the mainly-Muslim Rohingya minority group, brought by The Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
If war crimes have been committed, they will be prosecuted within our military justice system - Myanmar State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi
The de-facto leader of Myanmar, who was placed under house arrest by the country’s then military rulers off and on over more than 20 years, is not on trial at the ICJ, which settles disputes between countries. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has the responsibility of trying individuals, and in November, the ICC authorized its own investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, namely deportation, committed against the Rohingya.
“If war crimes have been committed, they will be prosecuted within our military justice system”, the Nobel peace laureate Ms. Suu Kyi said in court, during the second day of preliminary proceedings at the ICJ.
In her opening statement in front of judges in The Hague, Ms. Suu Kyi outlined decades of tensions between Rakhine’s mainly Rohingya Muslim community and their Buddhist neighbours.
These boiled over on 25 August 2017, when the country’s military – often referred to as the Tatmadaw - carried out a sweeping crackdown against Rohingya communities, in response to deadly attacks on police and security posts by separatists known as the Arakan Army.
The result was the exodus of more than 700,000 people to neighbouring Bangladesh, many of whom told UN-appointed independent investigators that they had witnessed targeted violence of extreme brutality.
Numerous alleged human rights abuses took place, with the then UN human rights chief describing it as bearing all the hallmarks of a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Genocidal intent ‘cannot be only possibility’: Suu Kyi
It could not be ruled out that the Tatmadaw had used disproportionate force, Ms. Suu Kyi told the Netherlands-based court, while also suggesting that “surely, under the circumstances, genocidal intent cannot be the only hypothesis” – the same phraseology used around a 2019 UN report by independent experts on the circumstances leading up to the Rakhine mass exodus.
According to the report by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, the country’s military were responsible for the “widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injuries to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh, and so severely injuring victims that they may be unable to have sexual intercourse with their husbands or to conceive and leaving them concerned that they would no longer be able to have children.”
Highlighting that Myanmar’s own military justice system “must” be responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of possible war crimes by soldiers or officers in Rakhine, Ms. Suu Kyi regretted that the case brought against her country by The Gambia was “an incomplete and misleading factual picture in Rakhine state and Myanmar”.
Tatmadaw military ‘will be put on trial in Myanmar if guilty’
If war crimes have been committed by members of Myanmar’s defence services, Ms Suu Kyi added, “they will be prosecuted through our military justice system, in accordance with Myanmar’s constitution”.
In addition, she said that “it would not be helpful” for the international legal order if the impression takes hold that only resource-rich countries can conduct adequate domestic investigations and prosecutions”.
The Myanmar representative also insisted that it was of the utmost importance that the ICJ also assess the situation “on the ground in Rakhine dispassionately and accurately”.
Case against Myanmar laid out in detail
The hearing, brought by The Gambia with the backing of the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, alleges that “…against the backdrop of longstanding persecution and discrimination, from around October 2016 the Myanmar military (the “Tatmadaw”) and other Myanmar security forces began widespread and systematic ‘clearance operations’ – the term that Myanmar itself uses – against the Rohingya group”.
The “genocidal acts” that followed “were intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group - in whole or in part”, The Gambia’s submission states, detailing mass murder, rape and other sexual violence against the Rohingya and the “systematic destruction by fire” of villages, “often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses”.
From August 2017 onwards, such genocidal acts continued with Myanmar’s resumption of “clearance operations” on a more massive and wider geographical scale”, it continued.