UN rights chief presses for new body on crimes against Rohingya

New High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, right, welcomes delegates upon her arrival on the opening day of 39th UN Council of Human Rights in Geneva on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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UN rights chief presses for new body on crimes against Rohingya

  • The investigators named six generals, including the commander-in-chief, whom they said should face justice
  • Some 700,000 Rohingya fled the crackdown and most are now living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh

GENEVA: United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Monday for a new quasi-judicial body to collect evidence with a view to future prosecution of crimes against Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar including murder and torture.
An independent UN team of investigators said in a report last month that there was evidence indicating “genocidal intent” by the military against Rohingya and that crimes against humanity and war crimes appear to have been committed.
The investigators named six generals, including the commander-in-chief, whom they said should face justice.
A year ago, government troops led a brutal crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base.
Some 700,000 Rohingya fled the crackdown and most are now living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.
Bachelet, in her first speech to the Human Rights Council since taking office on Sept. 1, said that attacks and persecution appear to continue in Rakhine state. Investigators had also found indications of executions, torture and sexual violence against minorities in Kachin and Shan states, she said.
“The persistence of these patterns of violations underscores the total impunity accorded to the Myanmar security forces,” Bachelet told the 47-member Geneva forum which opened a three-week session.
She welcomed a decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week that it has jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity.
“This is an immensely important step toward ending impunity, and addressing the enormous suffering of the Rohingya people.
“I also welcome efforts by Member States at this Council to establish an independent international mechanism for Myanmar, to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes, in order to expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts.”
The new mechanism — similar to what has been set up for crimes in Syria — would complement and support the preliminary examination of the ICC prosecutor, she added.
“I urge the Council to pass a resolution and refer the matter to the (UN) General Assembly for its endorsement so that such a mechanism can be established,” she said.
Myanmar has denied committing atrocities against the Rohingya, saying its military carried out justifiable actions against militants. It has so far signalled it does not intend to cooperate with the international court.


EU looks to Egypt, Africa for help with migrant challenge

Updated 36 min 58 sec ago
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EU looks to Egypt, Africa for help with migrant challenge

SALZBURG: Austria urged its European Union partners Thursday to enter talks with Egypt to help stem the flow of migrants entering Europe from Africa, amid deep divisions over how to manage the challenge.
Kurz, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and EU Council President Donald Tusk visited Cairo over the weekend for talks with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, a top army general who took office in 2014. Both men have praised him for stopping people from leaving its coast bound for Europe.
“Egypt has proven that it can be efficient,” Kurz told reporters at an EU summit in Salzburg, Austria. “Since 2016, it has prevented ships sailing from Egypt to Europe or, when they have sailed, it has taken them back.”
Kurz said Egypt is “now prepared possibly to deepen cooperation with us in talks. We should use that.” He also said EU leaders support the idea of entering into talks with other North African countries as well.
In dealing with the migrants crisis of the past few years, the EU has been creative, willing to part with billions to secure deals around the Mediterranean with leaders with autocratic leanings.
The bloc lauds the deal it struck with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for slowing migrant arrivals to a trickle over the last two years, in exchange for up to 6 billion euros ($7 billion) in aid for Syrian refugees there and other incentives.
Italy alone paid billions to former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to stop African people from leaving his country’s shores. Thousands were transported from Libya’s coast to its southern border.
Beyond keeping tight control over Egypt’s coastline, El-Sisi could have important influence with the military and militias in lawless, neighboring Libya; a main departure point for migrants trying to enter Europe through Italy. Already, Tusk is lobbying to hold an EU-Arab League summit in Cairo in February.
The call comes after a summer in which Italy’s anti-migrant government closed its ports to NGO ships, and even its own coast guard, carrying people rescued at sea. Hundreds of migrants spent unnecessary days at sea or aboard boats while EU countries bickered over who should take them.
Looking for help from El-Sisi is a new sign of the EU’s determination to outsource the migrant challenge, even though arrival numbers are barely a trickle compared to 2015, when well over a million people entered Europe, mostly fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq.
EU countries are studying plans to create “disembarkation platforms” in northern African countries, where people rescued at sea could be dropped off for screening. No African country has expressed interest in hosting one so far.
The EU’s inability to balance responsibility for the migrants and share the burden of hosting them has been a vote-winner for far-right parties across the 28-nation bloc.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that Africa is not keen at the moment.
“If we take the approach of: ‘we don’t take them, you take them,’ that doesn’t fly,” she said. “But this doesn’t mean that North African countries would not be ready to cooperate with us, and with the UN, to have a reasonable, sustainable solution.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who supports talks with North Africa, believes countries like Italy, Greece and Spain must take responsibility for migrant arrivals, but he also underlines the importance of European solidarity.
“There are rules and they have to be respected. We have to protect our citizens but we must do it while respecting our values. Also, responsibilities cannot be upheld if there is no solidarity,” he said.
Macron and the leaders of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands repeated a similar joint line on the balance between responsibilities and solidarity after talks earlier this month. However, they appeared to suggest that solidarity is best expressed by giving European money to partners who need help. No leader offered to share the refugee burden.
One idea raised in Salzburg has been for countries to pay money to Italy or Greece to take care of migrants themselves.
Asked how much a migrant was worth, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said, in an indignant tone: “We are not at the market. We are speaking about humans. We are not speaking about carpets or goods.”
He said that if Europe starts “to ask: ‘how much is the price of an immigrant?’ it’s a shame for all of us.”