The Irrawaddy

UN Envoy, Bangladesh Rights Chief Discuss Plan to Document Abuses against Rohingya

Muktadir Rashid

DHAKA — The UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict met with Bangladeshi rights officials in Dhaka on Wednesday to discuss ways of documenting the horrific abuses experienced by Rohingya now living in Cox’s Bazar as they fled violence in Myanmar.

Pramila Patten held an hour-long closed-door meeting with Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque.

After the meeting, Kazi Reazul said Patten’s office “wants to sign a deal with Bangladesh and they have shown us the draft on how UN agencies and Bangladesh NHRC and others can be engaged to document the right abuses the survivors experienced in Myanmar.”

“They will also consult with the Foreign Ministry [of Bangladesh],” Kazi Reazul said. “They want to conduct documentation, not investigation.”

He said that “as the Myanmar authorities denied the genocide in their land, we want to expose those cases so that those who have still [support Myanmar’s view] will be made to understand.”

Kazi Reazul said the two officials had also discussed the role of China in the repatriation process. “The UN official believes the repatriation process is complicated, [as] the role of China is significant,” he said.

Myanmar has recently strengthened its relations with China and Russia, the NHRC chief said.

“We also believe that unless China is convinced, it is difficult to deal with the Rohingya issue at the UN,” he said, adding that, “We have to convince China, as Bangladesh cannot put pressure on it.”

“China is our friend. We have to prove it,” the rights agency chairman said, adding that, “[Patten] in her last visit had described the facts regarding what kind of atrocities had taken place. But no action can be taken due to China.”

Asked whether her office would seek to investigate the abuses, Patten replied in negative, saying, “We do not have a mandate to carry out an investigation.”

The UN official, who has a rank within the organization equivalent to an undersecretary general, said she had visited Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar. Her report based on meetings with Rohingya survivors was submitted to the United Nations Security Council team that visited Bangladesh and Myanmar recently.

She said her aim was to engage the Bangladesh government and to discuss recent developments in the light of Dhaka’s agreements with Myanmar and the UN refugee agency.

With a large UN team, Patten visited Bangladesh between Nov. 5 and 13, 2017, touring several camps and settlements, namely Kutupalong, Unchiprang, Leda, and the Konapara border area. She helped to deploy an interagency technical team comprising representatives of IOM, UNICEF and UNFPA to carry out an initial assessment of the situation.

Over the course of three days, according to her report to the UNSC on Dec. 12, 2017, she heard “the most heartbreaking and horrific accounts of sexual atrocities reportedly committed in cold blood out of a lethal hatred for the Rohingya community based on their ethnicity and religion.”

“The accounts were consistent and corroborated by international medical staff and other service providers operating in the area,” her earlier statement reads.

On April 30, a UN Security Council delegation visiting Bangladesh conceded that progress toward solving the Rohingya refugee crisis had been slow but denied that there was any resistance from China or Russia.

Nearly 700,000 people have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State since late August, when militant attacks on security posts there set off a sweeping military clearance operation that the UN and US have described as ethnic cleansing.

The Myanmar military insists the Rohingya do not constitute a distinct ethnic group and calls them “Bengali”, implying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The UN team referred to the Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh simply as “refugees.”

The Dhaka-based daily New Age meanwhile reported on May 8 that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has requested Bangladesh provide it with observations and evidence for use in deciding whether the court had jurisdiction to investigate Myanmar’s “expulsion” of Rohingyas from the country.

A pre-trial chamber at the court comprising judge Péter Kovács, judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou issued an order on Monday asking the registrar of the court to notify the Bangladesh authorities seeking observation and evidence on the matter.

The court passed the order as Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, on Wednesday sought a ruling from the court on the question of whether the court may exercise “territorial jurisdiction” to open a probe into the alleged expulsion of Rohingya who have been “intentionally deported across the international border into Bangladesh” from Myanmar.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque told New Age on Tuesday, “We have received the request of the ICC,” adding, “Let’s see what we can do.”