A responsibility to protect
Umran Chowdhury – Published at 11:15 AM April 30, 2018 – Last updated at 12:17 PM April 30, 2018
The UN Security Council’s visit presents a chance for Myanmar’s atrocities to be put under the spotlight
At the 2005 World Summit, global leaders espoused the doctrine of the responsibility to protect. Under this doctrine, when a country fails to prevent a population from facing genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, the responsibility falls on other countries to do so.
Today, Myanmar stands widely accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. As a result of the crisis, Bangladesh is now home to an estimated 1 million Rohingya refugees.
As a team from the UN Security Council visits Bangladesh in April, the Rohingya crisis continues to linger. The Security Council has several options under its disposal that can bring about the pacific settlement of the crisis, as provided for under its mandate in the United Nations Charter.
The crux of the problem lies in Myanmar’s stubbornness to not grant legal recognition to the Rohingya as a native community of Rakhine state. Additional restrictions on Rohingya human rights — such as travel permits, birth control, and unequal access to education and healthcare — have created an apartheid-like regime for the Rohingya.
The oppressive policies of Myanmar are well documented by UN agencies and NGOs. Article 33 of the UN Charter calls on states to first seek a resolution to an international crisis by “negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”
Despite a general agreement on the repatriation of refugees, Bangladesh and Myanmar have not been able to achieve a solution which addresses the human rights of the Rohingya. In order for the refugees to have a safe, voluntary, and dignified return as preached by the UN Secretary General, Myanmar must be pressured more.
The Security Council has so far issued only a statement instead of a binding resolution that addresses the roots of the conflict. Article 37 of the UN Charter allows the Security Council to “to recommend such terms of settlement as it may consider appropriate” in the event of international peace and security being endangered.
The refugee crisis has sparked regional security concerns that terror groups may gain a foothold in South and Southeast Asia if the crisis persists.
The past experience of Pakistan with Afghan refugees or of Arab countries with Palestinian refugees should stand as a reminder that refugee crises can destabilize countries and regions. Myanmar has also violated Bangladesh’s airspace and disrupted the sanctity of the border between the two countries.
“ The displacement of such a large population should be an affront to all countries which value human dignity. The Security Council must therefore act to bring about a permanent resolution of the conflict
According to a statement by Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the Security Council, Myanmar also mobilized its military near the border. The displacement of such a large population should be an affront to all countries which value human dignity.
The Security Council must therefore act to bring about a permanent resolution of the conflict. A binding resolution from the council can consider the following points:
- Citizenship and equal rights for the Rohingya in Myanmar
- Demilitarization of Rakhine state
- Supervision by UN monitors of conditions in Rakhine state
- A period of multi-national peacekeeping with troops from regional countries
- Freedom of trade and travel between Bangladesh and Myanmar to facilitate peace (with the aim of reviving commercial networks between Rakhine state and Bangladesh)
Article 42 of the UN Charter allows the Security Council to authorize blockades and military operations in the event of breach of peace, threats to peace, and acts of aggression. The French government under Emmanuel Macron has been a vocal advocate of humanitarian intervention.
On the Rohingya question, President Macron has stated: “We must condemn the ethnic purification which is under way, and act.” He has further stated that “when the UN issues a condemnation, there are consequences which can provide a framework for intervention under the UN.”
The Myanmar military leadership is culpable for the Rohingya atrocities, as well as the widespread human rights abuses affecting other communities in that country. They must be held accountable for their brutality and face justice under international law.
Umran Chowdhury is a student of the Sorbonne-Assas International Law School.