‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.


Sharer of New Zealand mosque shooting video gets 21 months

Philip Neville Arps, left, appears for sentencing in the Christchurch District Court, in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Sharer of New Zealand mosque shooting video gets 21 months

  • Under New Zealand laws aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: A Christchurch businessman who shared a video of worshippers being slaughtered at a New Zealand mosque was sentenced on Tuesday to 21 months in prison.
Philip Arps had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing the video, which was livestreamed on Facebook by a gunman on March 15 as he began killing 51 people at two mosques.
Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said that when questioned about the video, Arps had described it as “awesome” and had shown no empathy toward the victims.
The judge said Arps had strong and unrepentant views about the Muslim community and had, in effect, committed a hate crime. The judge said Arps had compared himself to Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader under Adolf Hitler.
“Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” the judge said.
O’Driscoll said Arps had sent the video to 30 associates. The judge said Arps also asked somebody to insert crosshairs and include a kill count in order to create an Internet meme, although there was no evidence he’d shared the meme.
Under New Zealand laws aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count.
In other cases, at least five other people were also charged with illegally sharing the shooting video. An 18-year-old was jailed in March while the others weren’t kept in custody. The teen is accused of sharing the video and an image of the Al Noor mosque with the words “target acquired.” He is next due to appear in court on July 31.
The judge said Arps had argued he had a right to distribute the video under the banner of freedom to pursue his political beliefs.
Arps’ lawyer Anselm Williams told the judge that Arps should not be sent to prison.
“It’s my submission that this court needs to be very careful to sentence Mr. Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds,” Williams said.
After the hearing, Williams said Arps had filed an appeal against his sentence at the High Court, but declined to comment further.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, last week pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism in the mosque shooting case. His trial has been scheduled for next May.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has helped lead a global pledge named the “Christchurch Call,” aimed at boosting efforts to keep Internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks. New Zealand has also tightened its gun laws and banned certain types of semi-automatic weapons since the attack.