Plight of Rohingya

December 16, 2019

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EARLIER this week, the International Court of Justice heard accusations against Myanmar for breaching the 1948 genocide convention through its military that left no stone unturned in its efforts to uproot, torture and massacre the Rohingya community in the country’s Rakhine state. The ICJ took up the matter after Gambia filed a case on behalf of a number of countries. The three-day hearing began with a 30-minute speech by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in which she defended the military that had kept her under house arrest for several years. She called the case against Myanmar “incomplete and incorrect”, stating that the violence in Rakhine state had been triggered by an armed insurgency that dated back centuries. Ms Suu Kyi — who has been declared complicit by the UN in the targeted violence against the Rohingya community in 2017 that resulted in their mass exodus to Bangladesh — admitted that disproportionate force might have been used at times, and said that if the soldiers were found guilty they would be held responsible. What was striking in her speech, however, was the complete omission of the word ‘Rohingya’ when referring to the violence-hit community. The name came up only once when Ms Suu Kyi called out the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army for attacking government forces.

It appears that Ms Suu Kyi has completed her transformation from a human rights icon to a leader complicit in crimes described by the UN as having “genocidal intent”. Meanwhile, the ICJ has also said that its prosecutors were granted permission to investigate the alleged crimes against the Rohingya. Though the investigation and verdict may take years, the process itself reflects global concern over the crimes against humanity committed by Myanmar’s armed forces. It is in such international realisation that the hopes of the beleaguered community reside. Let’s hope that due process results in justice for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have suffered in the worst possible way for no fault of their own.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2019