A top United Nations official who deals with human rights in Myanmar said Thursday that the international community must continue to put pressure on the Southeast Asian nation to follow any decision by the International Court of Justice regarding its treatment of minority Rohingya Muslims.
UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee spoke in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, ahead of the court’s verdict in The Hague, Netherlands. The court read its verdict later Thursday, ordering Myanmar take all measures in its power to prevent genocide against the Rohingya.
In a unanimous decision, the court added that its order for so-called provisional measures intended to protect the Rohingya is binding “and creates international legal obligations” on Myanmar.
Lee, speaking to reporters ahead of her six-year assignment’s end in March, said Myanmar failed to respect human rights and she would recommend formation of an international adhoc tribunal to try those involved in crimes against the Rohingya.
“I hope the Myanmar government will follow through on the decisions and the recommendations that the court may make; and the international community stays seized on this issue, and brings this issue front in mind so that Myanmar will not evade its own responsibilities,” she said.
She criticized Myanmar for not allowing her to visit the country in recent years.
Lee also had tough words for Russia, China and the UN Security Council for their failure to refer the case of the Rohingya to the International Criminal Court.
“It’s shameful for those states to not do anything in the face of all evidence we have,” she said.
She said urged those nations to come to Bangladesh and see the situation in Cox’s Bazar, the Bangladesh city near the camps that house the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled Bangladesh.
“That’s not fabricated news; that’s not fake news,” she said.
Focusing on China, she said the country cannot be a global leader without respecting human rights,
“I’m hoping that especially China, with its attempt to become one of the top global leaders … you cannot become a global leader without respect to human rights. And by respecting human rights, you have to seek justice and accountability for all human rights violations,” she said.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
The long-simmering crisis exploded in August 2017 when Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine State in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.