6 December 2017, GENEVA – The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue has successfully campaigned for the holding of a Special Session at the United Nations Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar.
On 11-12 October 2017, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director Ambassador Idriss Jazairy sent out individual letters to the Permanent Representatives of the members of the Human Rights Council in which the Geneva Centre appealing for the holding of a Special Session in relation to the human rights situation of the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar.
Although reluctance and hesitancy was initially expressed, a consensus was subsequently reached by the members of the Human Rights Council to organize the advocated Special Session to address the situation in the State of Rakhine.
A background note in English, French and Arabic was also prepared by the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director Ambassador Idriss Jazairy on the rationale of holding a Special Session during the month of December 2017 on Myanmar that was sent to all member States on 3 November 2017.
On 5 December 2017, the Geneva Centre’s advocacy campaign brought results as the Human Rights Council held its 27th Special Session entitled “Human rights situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in the Rakhine Sate of Myanmar” at the United Nations Office in Geneva. This session was attended by a members and observer States of the Human Rights Council as well as by permanent observer missions and NGOs including the Geneva Centre.
In the Geneva Centre’s oral statement, it was highlighted that the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar “cannot be erased from Burmese soil or their identity stamped out and that refugees here as elsewhere have a right of return when it will be safe for them to do so.” The Centre also called for an “urgent supply of humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State” and for “accountability of the perpetrators of the heinous crimes that have been committed and for reparations to the victims.”
The draft resolution on the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar – submitted and tabled by the OIC members Algeria, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan and Turkey – was adopted by 33 votes in favour, 9 abstentions and 3 votes against.
Although involved parties agreed on the need to urgently address the human rights situation in the Rakhine State, politics loomed large at the expense of ethical values as the resolution was put to vote.
In this regard, it was highlighted that the singling out of States through the adoption of country-specific resolutions raises the issue of asymmetry and unfair bias. It was likewise remarked that the UN should resort to dialogue and negotiations between the involved parties so as to identify win-win solutions conducive to the promotion of peace. Other countries noted that impoverishment and the lack of sustainable development in the State of Rakhine have contributed to further aggravating the human rights situation in Myanmar. Lastly, the sacredness of the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty was once again reaffirmed in which the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs was given precedence over human rights abuses.
These considerations paled however in comparison with the atrocities that have been perpetrated and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights H. E. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein referred to as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in his statement on 11 September 2017 and the “widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal attacks against the Rohingya community” during his intervention at the opening of the Special Session.
In conclusion, the Geneva Centre welcomes the adoption of the resolution of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar and reiterates the view that the safeguarding of, and respect for, human rights and dignity in accordance with established international standards must be respected by all parties.
Oral statement delivered by the Geneva Centre on 5 December:
Video of the Geneva Centre's intervention (starts from 01:40:46):
Background note on the human rights situation of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar