Tuesday 13 November 2018

Amnesty strips Aung San Suu Kyi of 'Ambassador of Conscience' award

Source AI, 12 Nov,

Amnesty revokes honour awarded when she languished under house arrest in 2009
Rohingya in Myanmar killed and tortured in campaign of ethnic cleansing

'We are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope' - Kumi Naidoo

Amnesty International announced today that it has withdrawn its highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience award, from Aung San Suu Kyi, in light of the Myanmar leader's shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for.

Yesterday, Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty's Secretary General, wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi to inform her the organisation is revoking the 2009 award. Half way through her term in office, and eight years after her release from house arrest, Naidoo expressed Amnesty's grievous disappointment that she had not used her political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or equality in Myanmar, citing her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.

Kumi Naidoo wrote:

"As an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself.

"Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights. Amnesty International cannot justify your continued status as a recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience award and so with great sadness we are hereby withdrawing it from you."

Perpetuating human rights violations

Since Aung San Suu Kyi became the de facto leader of Myanmar's civilian-led government in April 2016, her administration has been actively involved in the commission or perpetuation of multiple human rights violations.

Amnesty has repeatedly criticised the failure of Aung San Suu Kyi and her government to speak out about military atrocities against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State. During the campaign of violence unleashed against the Rohingya last year, the Myanmar security forces killed thousands of people, raped women and girls, detained and tortured men and boys, and burned hundreds of homes to the ground. Fleeing the violence, more than 720,000 Rohingya escaped to neighbouring Bangladesh. A UN report has called for senior military officials to be investigated and prosecuted for the crime of genocide.

Although the Myanmar civilian government does not have control over the military, Aung San Suu Kyi and her office have repeatedly shielded the security forces from accountability by dismissing, downplaying or denying allegations of human rights violations and by obstructing international investigations into abuses. Her administration has actively stirred up hostility against the Rohingya, labelling them "terrorists" and accusing them of burning their own homes and "faking rape". Meanwhile, state media have published inflammatory and dehumanising articles referring to the Rohingya as "detestable human fleas" and "thorns" which must be removed.

Kumi Naidoo said:

"Aung San Suu Kyi's failure to speak out for the Rohingya is one reason why we can no longer justify her status as an Ambassador of Conscience.

"Her denial of the gravity and scale of the atrocities means there is little prospect of the situation improving for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in limbo in Bangladesh or for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who remain in Rakhine. Without acknowledgement of the horrific crimes against the community, it is hard to see how the government can take steps to protect them from future atrocities."

Amnesty has also highlighted the situation in Kachin and northern Shan States, where Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to use her influence to condemn military abuses, to push for accountability for war crimes or to speak up for ethnic minority civilians who bear the brunt of the conflicts. To make matters worse, her civilian-led administration has imposed harsh restrictions on humanitarian access, exacerbating the suffering of more than 100,000 people displaced by the violence.

Attacks on freedom of speech

Despite the power wielded by the Myanmar military, there are areas where the civilian-led government has considerable authority to enact reforms to better protect human rights, especially those relating to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. But in the two-and-a-half years since Aung San Suu Kyi's administration assumed power, human rights defenders, peaceful activists and journalists have been arrested and imprisoned, while others face threats, harassment and intimidation for their work.

Aung San Suu Kyi's administration has failed to repeal repressive laws – including some of the same laws which were used to detain her and others campaigning for democracy and human rights. Instead, she has actively defended the use of such laws, in particular the decision to prosecute and imprison two Reuters journalists for their work documenting a military massacre.

Aung San Suu Kyi was named as Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience in 2009, in recognition of her peaceful and non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. At the time she was held under house arrest, which she was eventually released from exactly eight years ago today. When she was finally able to accept the award in 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi asked Amnesty to "not take either your eyes or your mind off us and help us to be the country where hope and history merges".

Kumi Naidoo said:

"Amnesty International took Aung San Suu Kyi's request that day very seriously, which is why we will never look away from human rights violations in Myanmar.

"We will continue to fight for justice and human rights in Myanmar - with or without her support."

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Rohingya Issues at ACFID- NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2018 on Human Rights

by Admin,

The discussion of Rohingya Issues hosted on the second day of NATIONAL CONFERENCE- 2018 on Human Rights by Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), at John Niland Scientia Building- UNSW Sydney, 30-31 Oct 2018. 

(Program details here )

The panel was chaired by Beth Eggleston (Humanitarian Advisory Group) and jointly with Habib  (representative from Rohingya community), Dr. Robert Glasser (ASPI, ANU), Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini (ED ICAN), Dr. Mortem Pedersen (UNSW), Prf. Jane McAdam (UNSW). 

The panelists and attendants included from the government sectors, local NGOs and INGOs, academics, students, journalists, private sectors and individuals. 
Discussion included natural disaster, climate changes and Rohingya issues (humanitarian response, ongoing crisis, security concerns, and durable solution). 

Chair –Beth Eggleston, Humanitarian Advisory Group & Panellists:-
• Morten Pedersen. UNSW
• Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, ED ICAN
• Professor Jane McAdam, Director, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW
• Dr Robert Glasser, ASPI, ANU &
. Habib from Rohingya community

Thursday 25 October 2018

AI: Payne’s sanctions against Myanmar military welcome, but need expansion



23 October 2018

Payne's sanctions against Myanmar military welcome, but need expansion

Responding to Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne's announcement today imposing targeted sanctions against five Myanmar military officers over their role in the ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya people in northern Rakhine State, Amnesty International Australia's Rohingya Rights Campaign Coordinator Diana Sayed said,

"The Australian Government has today responded to Amnesty International's research and campaign calling for the imposition of sanctions on the key perpetrators of violence against the Rohingya people.

"The explosion of violence – including murder, rape, torture, burning and forced starvation – perpetrated by Myanmar's security forces in villages across northern Rakhine State was not the action of rogue soldiers or units. There is a mountain of evidence that this was part of a highly orchestrated, systematic attack on the Rohingya population.

"The five men today sanctioned by Australia are among the 13 implicated in committing crimes against humanity and named in Amnesty International's 27 June report 'We Will Destroy Everything': Military Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar.

"The Government must now expand its sanctions net to include all 13 named in that report, and push for comprehensive, multilateral sanctions in forums such as the United Nations Security Council and at the upcoming November ASEAN Summit.

"Only with a concerted international effort to impose a comprehensive arms embargo, and targeted financial sanctions against those individuals responsible for crimes against humanity, will justice be delivered for the Rohingya people.

"The Australian Government must also cut Australia's training support to the Myanmar military. That Australian taxpayers' money is going to support such human rights violators is unthinkable."


Details of Amnesty International's evidence against the military commanders responsible for crimes against humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar, can be found here (summarised on page 155).

For example, one of the five sanctioned by the Australian Government, Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw, controlled all military operations in Western Command, which includes Rakhine State, and was charged with coordinating and controlling the use of air assets, including helicopters. During the post-25 August 2017 operations, logistical support via helicopter appears linked to the commission or cover-up of the 30 August massacre of Rohingya men, women and children in Min Gyi village, Maungdaw Township.

Lt. Gen. Aung Kyaw Zaw was physically present in northern Rakhine State during, at minimum, key periods before and during the 2017 operations marked by crimes against humanity against the Rohingya people. All of the elements of command or other superior responsibility appear to have been met.

For further information and for media interviews, please contact Michelle Dunne Breen on 0422 869 439.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Australia must demand Myanmar war crimes tribunal, says investigator

Source SMH, 30 Sept

The Morrison government should use its regional clout to demand a peacekeeping mission and war crimes tribunal in response to humanitarian crimes in Myanmar, says a top Australian investigator.
Michael Stefanovic, an Australian seconded to the US State Department's Myanmar inquiry, said he was horrified by the evidence he had gathered.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is grappling whether to use the term genocide to describe the Myanmar military's attack on members on the Rohingya ethnic minority.
But Mr Stefanovic said the term was appropriate.
Mick Stefanovic has investigated war crimes in the Balkans, Darfur and the congo, but was shocked by what he learnt in Cox Bazaar, Bangladesh.
To underscore the shocking nature of the atrocities, Mr Stefanovic described the story of a man forced by an officer with the Tatmadaw, the country's military, to select a woman from a crowd of Rohingya villagers to be gang raped in public.

Mr Stefanovic has held senior posts at the UN and has previously investigated war crimes in the Balkans and Sudan's troubled Darfur region.
He described the evidence gathered by the US State Department – which had interviewed more than 1000 Rohingya – as the most harrowing he has ever encountered.
“It needs to be acted on. [The] Australian government has a lot of weight in this area of international humanitarian law and I think it needs to throw it around,” he said.
War crimes investigator Michael Stefanovic.
War crimes investigator Michael Stefanovic.CREDIT:SIMON SCHLUTER
Mr Stefanovic is also calling on Australia to consider severing ties with Myanmar’s military.
The pending release by Mr Pompeo of the final conclusions of the US inquiry will supplement a summary of the State Department’s "factual" findings released last week, which accused Myanmar's military of waging a coordinated campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
UN investigators estimate 10,000 Rohingya have been killed.

The investigation

In May, Mr Stefanovic conducted interviews with dozens of Rohingya in camps in Bangladesh, where almost 700,000 Rohingya are living as refugees.
Rohingya refugee women wait in their line as the men in their line run past for a meal provided by a Turkish aid agency.
Rohingya refugee women wait in their line as the men in their line run past for a meal provided by a Turkish aid agency.CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY
The interviews helped inform the State Department's findings that Myanmar's military engaged in attacks in Rakhine State that were “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorising the population and driving out the Rohingya residents".


The first randomly selected survivor Mr Stefanovic interviewed described “no less than three significant massacres, one of which involved hundreds of bodies floating in a waterway”.
When Mr Stefanovic, a former homicide detective with Victoria Police, debriefed with his inquiry team after his first day on the ground in Bangladesh, his fellow investigators told similar stories.
“Often … it takes a while before the crimes of that extent emerge," he said. "But everyone had hit the ground running with a fairly horrendous account of what had occurred in Myanmar.”
“I had got to that point of my career where I was sort of a fairly cold, objective, dispassionate, detached… a cold bastard,” Mr Stefanovic said. Yet the accounts of the Rohingya moved him.
He said one story more than others had stayed with him. A man who fled from Myanmar in October 2017 described being forced by a military official to select a woman from a crowd of Rohingya villagers.
The man said she was then raped by several soldiers in front of horrified villagers. When a fellow villager protested, he was executed by a Tatmadaw commander.
“He was a broken man,” Mr Stefanovic recalls of the survivor.

Report findings

The State Department's summary "factual" report describes a “well-planned and coordinated" military operation to terrorise the Rohingya. It documents the use of public gang rape as a military weapon, as well as the murder of toddlers. Some people were buried alive in a military campaign prompted by attacks by Rohingya insurgents in August 2017.
Mr Pompeo is now weighing whether to declare the acts a genocide, a move that would increase pressure on the international community to act but which might be resisted by Russia and China and be contrary to President Donald Trump’s desire for the US to step back from its role as a global watchdog.
Mr Stefanovic said the evidence that a genocide has occurred is compelling.
“There were mass killings, there were atrocities that were committed with a view to terrorising a population to force them out of the country and that all qualifies as genocide,” he said.
In August, a United Nations investigation described the “genocidal intent” underpinning the military’s campaign. The UN report called for six high-ranking military officials, including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, to be prosecuted for genocide.
Mr Stefanovic said he was speaking out about his work with the State Department – which usually communicates via senior diplomats and press releases – to urge Australia to respond more forcefully to the humanitarian catastrophe.

Australia must act

Australia’s newly appointed foreign affairs minister Marise Payne recently said the government was “considering its options, including targeted sanctions” in response to the UN findings.
Ms Payne is expected to meet Mr Pompeo this week and discuss the Myanmar report.
On Saturday, she told the UN General Assembly that Australia was deeply disturbed at the reports of atrocities and was “working with Myanmar and with ASEAN and regional partners ... to find long-term solutions to this complex crisis".
Mr Stefanovic said the release of the State Department report was cause for Australia to act, using its standing in the region to champion a peacekeeping force and a tribunal .
“Someone needs to get in there and intervene, provide stability to enable the return of the Rohingya into Myanmar [and] to set up methods to ensure they have got national recognition, they’ve got citizenship and that there’s some form of justice mechanism put in place.”
Mr Stefanovic also called for targeted sanctions of military officials and a review of the support given by Australia to the Tatmadaw, which in the last financial year reportedly included $400,000 for training.
“It needs to be definitely looked at with the view to being cut.”

Limited expectations

Mr Stefanovic said resistance by the Russian and Chinese governments may stymie any US-led intervention and Australia may be more successful if it led efforts to form a regional coalition.
“This is where the Australian government can come in. Some sort of regional approach might be more palatable and much quicker to come to bear.”
“I think Australia could bring its experience from [the Solomon Islands], Bougainville and other places to help drive that.”
He is not hopeful that those responsible for genocidal acts in Myanmar will ever be fully held to account.
“You don’t dwell on it too much,” he said.
“I’ll do my work, assemble it, put it towards people who can develop the appropriate policies and appropriate global responses to these things and I’ll park it for a while and move on to the next [war crimes inquiry].
“I actually want my children when they grow up to understand what it is that I’ve done. I want them to understand what the nature of these horrific crimes are and what’s out there and how lucky they are to be in Australia where they don’t have to contend with horrific events like that.”
Nick McKenzie
Nick McKenzie is a leading investigative journalist. He's won Australia's top journalism award, the Walkley, seven times and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.
Nicole Precel
Nicole Precel is a video journalist and reporter at The Age. She is also a documentary maker.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Help us: Displaced Rohingya Muslims ask for more than financial aid

Source Mojonews, 27 Sept
Andrew Do (far right) with participants of the walkathon in Princes Park. Picture supplied
The Australian Government should interfere politically in the Rohingya crisis, a representative of the group in Australia says. 
Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation public affairs head Mr Habiburahman said the efforts of local fundraising groups were much appreciated, but much more needed to be done at government level. 
Mr Habiburahman, a refugee who came boat to Australia in 2009, urged the Australian Government not to refuse other refugees who came here by boat. 
Temporary visas, when they are granted to Rohingya refugees, were barriers to successful integration into society and being able to contribute to Australia, he said.
Mr Habiburahman. Picture: Mahia Rahman
“There are many Rohingyas living in Australia … on bridging visas. Once those visas finish they don’t know what will happen to them because by law they are asked to go back to their country,” he said.
Since 2017, many Rohingyas, a Muslim minority community in Burma, have fled communal violence,  with an estimated 720,000 refugees escaping from Rakhine province to neighbouring Bangladesh.
The violence, which has resulted in the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, was described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In response to the crisis, the Victorian Vietnamese community – VCA Victoria – held a fundraising walkathon in Melbourne CBD earlier this month to help.
They raised $100,000 to add to Australia’s donation to the UNHCR’s Rohingya emergency appeal.
VCA Victoria director of finance and youth initiatives Andrew Do said while the fundraising was important, the group had “a bigger objective to promote multiculturalism and a sense of solidarity”.

Rohingya women and children are seen waiting to be treated last month in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“We (Vietnamese refugees) had to flee once when we were persecuted by our own government and find safety and a home somewhere else. It’s the exact situation Rohingya people are facing at the moment.”
Mr Habiburahman said he greatly appreciated the efforts of the Vietnamese community.
“It will help send a clear message to locals and other communities why we are trying to raise funds and who we are trying to help,” he said.
“Although the [financial] contribution of each community is important to raise public awareness, it is not enough.”
According to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2018 Australia was the third-largest donor to the displaced Rohingya communities in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“Australia has already provided $70 million to the crisis through Australian aid agencies and UNHCR, but financial aid serves a temporary purpose,” he said.
The UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, released last week, called for Myanmar’s military, which holds a quarter of all seats in the parliament, to be completely removed from politics.  
The report also laid out in detail human rights violations by Myanmar’s military towards Rohingya Muslims.
“Without international [political] interference, the Burmese government will not work with the UN and we won’t see any improvement on ground for even the next 10 years,” Mr Habiburahman said.