Sunday 17 April 2022

Sixty Rohingyas arrested in forest in Ayeyarwady Region’s Pathein Township

Source Mizzima, 11 April

About 60 Rohingya were arrested, for illegally leaving Rakhine State, in a forest, in Ayeyarwady Region's Pathein Township on 7 April, according to a police officer from the Pathein Township police station.

According to him, they were apprehended in a forest near to U To Village in Chaungtha Town. There were 34 men, 17 women, and 9 underage children in the group who had come from Rakhine State with the help of people smugglers.

"They [Rohingyas] coming from Rakhine State had to pay 1.5 million Kyat to the smugglers to go to Yangon. We were informed that the two traffickers live in Rathedaung and ArkarThaung villages. It is not yet known about where the Rohingya lived and came from", he added.

A human rights activist, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that he thinks the Rohingya must have paid money to junta troops to be able to travel through Rakhine State and Ayeyarwady Region.

Police officer Htun Shw from Ayeyarwady Region told Mizzima that the captured Rohingya are in the process of being charged, but he did not reveal where they are being held.

Under the 1982 Citizenship law, the Rohingya are not considered to be one of the indigenous races of Myanmar so they are not entitled to full citizenship. This means that there are severe restrictions on Rohingya freedom of movement, marriages, births and population control restrictions. These restrictions limit Rohingya access to health, education, livelihoods and family life.

Jacqui Lambie says she made secret deal with PM to get refugees to NZ

Source SMH, 24 Mar

Australia's deal to send refugees to New Zealand was part of a private commitment independent senator Jacqui Lambie says she secured from Prime Minister Scott Morrison in return for her vote to end the medevac legislation for asylum seekers on Nauru.

The three-year agreement will lead to 450 refugees who attempted to arrive by boat resettling in NZ. Priority will be given to about 100 people still on Nauru after being processed in Australia's offshore immigration centre there. NZ's offer had been repeatedly rebuffed by the Australian government since it was first made in 2013.

Senator Jacqui Lambie during debate on the medevac laws in the Senate in December 2019.

Senator Jacqui Lambie during debate on the medevac laws in the Senate in December 2019.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Senator Lambie said she had negotiated with Mr Morrison to accept the offer to resettle refugees in offshore detention as part of her agreement in December 2019 to reverse the "medevac" legislation, which was originally passed without the government's support. The laws allowed refugees and asylum seekers in the offshore camps on PNG and Nauru to be brought to Australia for urgent medical care with the sign-off from two doctors, instead of having to go through a lengthy court process to have the transfer ordered.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews and NZ's Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi made the refugee resettlement announcement, which will see NZ accept 150 refugees each year for three years, on Thursday afternoon, more than two years after Senator Lambie says she made the deal with the Prime Minister.

"I was told that talking about the deal would kill the deal. If I talked, they would suffer. I just couldn't do it to them," Senator Lambie tweeted on Thursday.

She told the Prime Minister has a document in his office confirming there was a deal, and that it was made clear to her that she would end up in jail if she spoke about it.

"It wasn't the prison threat keeping me quiet. It was the fact that the deal would be torn up if I said anything. I got close anyway, let me tell you. But in the end I just knew if I was one of them and knew what was at stake, I'd want Lambie to hold the line," she tweeted.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison said the government would not confirm or deny if any deals were done with senators, but said Senator Lambie was briefed on the national security implications of the deal and legislation. He said there are strong rules around who can reveal the content of national security briefings.

Friday 1 April 2022

Myanmar’s crimes against the Rohingya warrant UN intervention

Source TheGuardian, 25 March

When individual states fail to protect their own populations, the international community must be prepared to act, writes Chris Hughes

Children of Rohingya refugees play football at a camp in Ukhia.
Rohingya refugees at a camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh. The US has declared that Myanmar's mass killing of Rohingya Muslims amounts to genocide. Photograph: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty
Fri 25 Mar 2022 04.54 AEDT

Now that the US has finally accepted that Myanmar's ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Rohingya Muslims amounts to genocide (Rohingya refugees welcome US decision to call Myanmar atrocities a genocide, 22 March), the UN should enact its responsibility to prevent and respond to this most serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

A 2005 UN world summit meeting agreed that all countries had a shared responsibility to do this. The summit agreed that the principle of state sovereignty carried with it the obligation of the state to protect its own citizens. However, if a state was unable or unwilling to do so, the international community was empowered to intervene.

The summit outcome document said "we are prepared to take collective action in a timely and decisive manner … should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity". No doubt Russia and China would veto any such move, but it should be proposed.
Chris Hughes

Myanmar junta leaders may face war crimes probe in Australia

Source TheAge, 22 March

Singapore: Leaders of Myanmar's military junta could be investigated in Australia for alleged war crimes committed by security forces since they seized power in a coup last year.

Cases against several military figures, from field commanders to junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, are being prepared by Myanmar's National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration of officials elected before the coup. They would be pursued in Australia under universal jurisdiction.

In this photo provided by the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, smokes and flames billow from vehicles in Hpruso township, Kayah state, in which people were shot and burnt on December 24.

In this photo provided by the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, smokes and flames billow from vehicles in Hpruso township, Kayah state, in which people were shot and burnt on December 24.CREDIT:AP

The move allows for individuals suspected of committing crimes against humanity, genocide, torture and other war atrocities to be tried under Australian law even if the alleged acts did not take place on Australian soil.

Dr Tun-Aung Shwe, the NUG representative in Australia, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age he had engaged the pro bono division of law firm Gilbert + Tobin to bring the cases before Attorney-General Michaela Cash or her successor if Labor wins government at the upcoming federal election.

Such prosecutions need the approval of the top law officer in the country to proceed but Shwe argues the evidence of atrocities is too compelling to ignore.

He said the cases against officials in the Tatmadaw, as the military is known, would revolve around mass killings in Kayah state in eastern Myanmar and the Sagaing region, in the north-west, as well as clearance operations in western Chin state in which civilians were targeted and villages burnt to the ground.

Junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.CREDIT:AP

Among them is last year's horrific Christmas Eve massacre in Kayah's Hpruso township in which at least 35 people were shot and incinerated in their cars. The victims included two staff members from the humanitarian organisation Save the Children.

According to Shwe, the cases are being made against field commanders in the regions where the atrocities took place as well as those deemed to have overall responsibility for the military's conduct, principally Min Aung Hlaing.

Danny Gilbert, the managing partner at Gilbert + Tobin, said: "We have been asked by some prominent Burmese Australians to investigate the possibility of bringing war crime charges against members of the Myanmar military junta.

"A national government needs to commence such a claim so our role would be preparing a brief to try to persuade the federal AG to act."

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said, if elected, Labor would "carefully consider any proposals to help bring to justice military figures in Myanmar guilty of war crimes".

Cash's office was contacted for comment.

There are international precedents under the premise of universal justice including European nations investigating war crimes in Syria, Iraq and now by Russian forces in Ukraine. A court in Argentina also last year approved an investigation into atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya ethnic minority in 2017 that were this week determined by US President Joe Biden's administration to have amounted to genocide.

In Australia, the investigating agency would be the Australian Federal Police.

Aung San Suu Kyi with Min Aung Hlaing, right, before the coup. She has been detained since February 2021 on 17 charges brought against her by the junta that could see her sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.

Aung San Suu Kyi with Min Aung Hlaing, right, before the coup. She has been detained since February 2021 on 17 charges brought against her by the junta that could see her sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.CREDIT:AP

Rawan Arraf, a lawyer and executive director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, has urged Australia to take on universal jurisdiction cases and for the AFP to establish a permanent war crimes investigation unit, not least because the veto power of states on the United Nations Security Council dilutes the reach of the International Criminal Court.

"Australia should step in and ensure that perpetrators do not enjoy impunity," she said.

There have been several applications in Australia in the past decade, most notably in 2018 when a group of Australian lawyers tried to have Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi prosecuted over the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, and in 2011 when a case was brought against Sri Lanka's then president, now Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for its military's killing of as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians during the civil war. Both were dismissed because they had immunity under international law as heads of state or heads of government.

The newly formed Australian Office of the Special Investigator is delving into allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan but Arraf believes "the will of the police to undertake investigation of international crimes, particularly where there is no real Australian link, has not been there".

Labor and non-government organisations have called on Australia to follow the US, United Kingdom, European Union and others by imposing targeted sanctions on Myanmar's military junta, which calls itself the State Administration Council. But Foreign Minister Marise Payne has indicated sanctioning the regime is not in Australia's national interest.

The government has been unsuccessful in securing the release of Australian economist Sean Turnell, an advisor to Suu Kyi who has been detained in Yangon and Naypyidaw since February 2021. He is facing charges brought by the junta of violating state secrets.

The UN last week released a report cataloguing the Myanmar military's deliberate targeting of citizens, including with air strikes on heavily populated areas, declaring "the appalling breadth and scale of violations" could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Attempts to contact Myanmar SAC spokesman Zaw Min Tun were unsuccessful.