Thousands displaced in Philippine fighting: UN

Updated 16 August 2012

Thousands displaced in Philippine fighting: UN

COTABATO, Philippines: The United Nations said Thursday deadly clashes between soldiers and a Muslim rebel group in the violence-plagued southern Philippines had displaced up to 45,000 people.
Arjun Jain, head of the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees office in the southern Philippines, said nearly half of the displaced were living in poor conditions in makeshift evacuation camps such as schools and madrassas.
“The evacuation sites are crammed and sometimes eight to 10 families are forced to share one room,” Jain said.
He said there were also concerns about safety, referring to reports that rebels had infiltrated the evacuation camps disguised as refugees.
“If the communities will be forced to remain in the camps any longer, we fear that the situation will become even worse for them,” he said.
Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked several army detachments in the southern province of Maguindanao last week, triggering gunbattles that left at least five soldiers dead.
The rebels occupied a major highway and sabotaged power lines, before the military forced them back and overran their mountain lair.
Sporadic fighting has continued and aid groups have had trouble getting access into affected areas, officials said.
The BIFF is made up of a few hundred fighters who broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a 12,000-strong group that has struggled for decades for an independent homeland for the country’s Muslim minority.
The insurgency has left about 150,000 dead since it began in the early 1970s.
The MILF is now in peace talks and has said it is willing to accept an autonomous homeland in the south that remains part of the Philippines.
The government said last week’s attacks were carried out to derail the peace talks.
The BIFF’s leader, Ameril Umbrakato, is hard-liner who led attacks against mostly Christian towns in the south in 2008, leading to the deaths of more than 400 people and displacing 750,000 others.
That attack came after the Supreme Court rejected a proposed deal that would have given the MILF control over large areas in the south they claim as their “ancestral domain.”


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.