With the onset of the Rohingya Crisis and nearly half a million refugees seeking refuge in Bangladesh, actions are now taken to condemn what the top United Nations human-rights official dubs a “textbook ethnic cleansing,” stating that it is a crime against humanity. The Independent reports that Hussein Mohamad and Najma Maxamed have launched a crowdfunding campaign to get leading human rights lawyers to begin building the legal case to hold Burma’s leaders accountable at the International Criminal Court.
This campaign was launched after the frustration surrounding the lack of action concerning the Rohingya Muslim crisis that has led many to flee persecution in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, fueling a historic migration crisis. This horrific turn of events in Myanmar under the rule of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has torn apart many families and strikes fear in many more. Action Against Hunger tells the story of Nurun Naha, a 26-years-old mother who fled Myanmar with eight of her children in late August, three days after the violence erupted in Rakhine State. She was forced to leave her eight-year-old son in Rakhine and has no idea where her husband is. Upon arriving in Bangladesh, they had nowhere to seek refuge and resorted to settling by the roadside.
The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority living among a Buddhist majority in Myanmar. Nearly a third of Rohingya Muslims live in Rakhine. Dominated by the Buddhist majority, Rohingya Muslims are not granted citizenship, leaving the vast majority without legal documentation. Now, the Myanmar government has effectively institutionalized discrimination against the ethnic group through various legal restrictions that infringe on the rights of the Rohingya Muslims. This systemic discrimination of the Rohingya Muslims has made the Rakhine State, housing nearly a million Rohingyas, Myanmar’s least developed state, with a poverty rate of 78%, compared to the 27.5% national average, according to World Bank estimates.
Deciding that enough is enough, lawyers are now holding investigations in Bangladesh by talking to Rohingya refugees and fathering their first-hand accounts. They sought to identify the culprits of such unspeakable violence and ethnic discrimination by gathering evidence from existing UN reports. They will prove Myanmar’s violation of multiple international treaties and place legal pressure on Myanmar to end their ethnic cleansing campaign. “The tragedy unfolding in Myanmar clearly requires a legal response,” Saimo Chahal, joint head of public law and international teams at Bindmans LLP, told The Independent. “While there has been widespread political condemnation across the world, a concerted legal effort to bring the perpetrators to justice must be mounted now. Time is of the essence when gathering evidence of this kind and exploring the appropriate avenues for a challenge in international court.”
One can only hope that these legal pressures will corner Myanmar into halting the violence, stopping the bloodbath that is fast growing within the country that has fought long and hard to end its military dictatorship, only to step into yet another rule marred with government-induced violence.