Estoy en el que llamamos «Hospital en la Colina» de Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) en Bangladesh. Desde aquí, desde este cerro en Bazar, se divisa parte del mayor campo de refugiados del mundo. Bazar, un destino turístico de playas kilométricas en el sureste del país, alberga hoy un millón de refugiados rohingyas.

A pesar de haber estado dos años trabajando en este lugar, me sigue sorprendiendo su enorme escala. Es un caos organizado, una mezcla de precarias cabañas de bambú y plástico construidas con la misma rapidez con la que se taló el bosque. Una apariencia de orden jalonada de caminos y desagües que, como cicatrices, recorren las cimas y las laderas de las colinas, todo ello contenido dentro de un kilómetro tras otro de vallas de alambre de espino.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugee children crowd a food distribution center in Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, in 2018. (Manish Swarup/AP)

When Bangladesh started relocating Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to its remote island of Bhasan Char in December, I met Saiful, a 10-year-old boy with an amputated leg. Saiful’s mother hoped he would one day become a doctor and offered an upbeat quote from him: “Now I can walk freely and even play.” It seemed to be that the Rohingya were headed for freedom and betterment in their new life on the island.

Just five months later, Saiful is dead. The authorities have not issued a death certificate for him. The cause of his death is unknown to his mother, save that his eyes turned yellow and his body became bloated.…  Seguir leyendo »

Where Do the Rohingya Go After the Coup in Myanmar?

I have been living in a refugee camp here since 2017, after the campaign of murder, rape and arson by the military in Myanmar forced more than 750,000 people from the Rohingya community to flee our homes in Rakhine State. Since the military coup in Myanmar on Feb. 1, our camp has been abuzz with conversation and even more uncertainty about the future. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who ordered the genocidal violence against us, has taken charge of the country.

Protests against the coup have spread across Myanmar, and I have been scanning news reports and social media posts about the gatherings — which have continued for days, some bringing together thousands of people — to find out whether the coup was making my countrymen rethink their indifference.…  Seguir leyendo »

Flooding in a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar on Thursday as a result of Cyclone Amphan. (Mayyu Ali)

Cox’s Bazar — In what is often described as the world’s largest refugee settlement, Rohingya refugees who have fled genocide in Myanmar are enduring one disaster after another.

On March 24, Bangladesh confirmed the first covid-19 case in the city of Cox’s Bazar. Since then, the government imposed a lockdown in the area, including for the camps where more than 1 million Rohingya refugees — myself included — are surviving. On May 14, Bangladesh reported the first two confirmed cases within the camps itself — a Rohingya refugee and a local Bangladeshi person.

The nightmare of what we and the world have feared for months had finally arrived at our doorsteps — and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.…  Seguir leyendo »

Coast guards escort Rohingya refugees following a boat capsizing accident in Teknaf on 11 February 2020. Photo: Getty Images.

International criminal justice provides a stark reminder that state sovereignty is not an absolute, and that the world’s most heinous crimes should be prosecuted at an international level, particularly where domestic systems lack the capacity or will to hold perpetrators to account.

The post-Cold War period witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of international tribunals with jurisdiction over war crimes and serious human rights abuses in countries including Cambodia, East Timor, Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Yugoslavia. With these processes approaching, or having reached the end of their dockets, many have called for the creation of new tribunals to address more recent conflicts, including the army crackdown in Myanmar in 2017 that resulted in evidence of crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.…  Seguir leyendo »

First genocide, now the coronavirus: Will we finally protect the Rohingya?

The coronavirus has unleashed so many problems around the world that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. Even so, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the situation facing one of the planet’s most vulnerable groups. They’ve been persecuted, maligned and terrorized — and now they’re preparing to confront the virus with minimal protection.

In the summer and fall of 2017, the Myanmar military launched a campaign of terror against the ethnic group known as the Rohingya, driving some 700,000 of them across the border into neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist ruling elite has long discriminated against the Muslim Rohingya, treating them as a nefarious alien presence in the country’s midst even though most have lived there for generations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees pray as they gather to mark the second anniversary in August of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters)

Recently, the United Nations’ top court ordered Myanmar to take urgent measures to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide. In a unanimous decision, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that without such measures, the vulnerable Rohingya minority could suffer “irreparable harm.” This legally binding decision has been hailed by human rights advocates as a “first taste of justice” for the Rohingya. However, whether it actually protects the Rohingya will depend on the diplomacy that comes next.

Calls for justice for the Rohingya have intensified

The Rohingya have long suffered from discrimination and political exclusion in Myanmar. In recent years, government forces have led a campaign of violent attacks against them, leading nearly 1 million to flee to neighboring Bangladesh since mid-2017.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya walk through a paddy field after crossing into Bangladesh in 2017. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

On Thursday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a unanimous ruling that ordered Myanmar to “take all measures within its power” to protect its ethnic minority Rohingya population from genocide. The case — against which Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, argued unsuccessfully — ended up in front of the ICJ because of a tiny African country thousands of miles away. Here’s what you need to know about this story.

How the case got started

The case before the ICJ started a few weeks ago, when Gambia accused Myanmar of violating the United Nations’ 1948 Convention on Genocide. Suu Kyi flew to The Hague to defend her country, arguing that her government’s actions were legitimate counterinsurgency efforts against rebels in Rakhine state.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi took the stand at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague to rebut allegations that her country’s systematic persecution of its Rohingya population amounts to genocide. Aung San Suu Kyi, once lionized for her stand against an oppressive military dictatorship, strenuously denied the charges — despite reams of evidence and the presence of nearly 1 million Rohingyas in refugee camps in Bangladesh. They ended up there after fleeing a so-called counterterrorism campaign by the Myanmar military in 2017 that left uncounted thousands dead.

The ICJ has announced that it will issue a preliminary judgment in the case on Jan.…  Seguir leyendo »

An extraordinary event took place in the Netherlands this week: a hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that is a first small step toward justice for one of the world’s longest-suffering minority groups.

On Thursday, an ICJ panel wound up the first phase of a legal process aimed at determining whether Myanmar committed an act of genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority. In August 2017, using a counterterrorism operation as a pretext, the Buddhist-dominated Myanmar military launched an ethnic-cleansing campaign that killed thousands of Muslim Rohingya and drove nearly 1 million of them into neighboring Bangladesh.

The ICJ investigation is likely to continue for years.…  Seguir leyendo »

A billboard depicting Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Su Kyi with the three military ministers in front of a background showing the building of the International Court of Justice in The Hague is displayed along a main road in Hpa-an, Karen State. AFP

Why is Myanmar before the International Court of Justice?

The Gambia has lodged a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal UN judicial body based in The Hague, alleging violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (usually known as the Genocide Convention) in Myanmar’s treatment of ethnic Rohingya Muslims. The charges stem from atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine State, which have forced over 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017. The Gambia, relying on the Convention’s provision that the ICJ can adjudicate disputes over such charges, brought this case on behalf of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week the case will commence at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) before the glare of the world’s media, drawn not only by the significance of the case itself, but in particular by the direct role Aung Sang Suu Kyi is set to play in the defence of her government. On 11 November, The Gambia instituted proceedings against Myanmar at the ICJ, based in The Hague. The Gambia’s application alleges that the Government of Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya constitutes a manifest violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The persecution of the Rohingya has been ongoing for decades; their status as the ‘other’ has been a convenient outlet for the oppressive, violent and, all too often, deadly impulses of Buddhist nationalism stretching back to well before the independence of the state in 1948.…  Seguir leyendo »

The office of Aung San Suu Kyi — Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of Myanmar — has just announced that she will travel to The Hague in December to answer a suit brought against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the Rohingya genocide. And apparently this has been decided in agreement with the country’s powerful generals, who control foreign affairs and security and who have carried out the “clearance operations” for which the state of Myanmar stands accused.

This is a baffling but welcome state of affairs. Why would Suu Kyi and the government of Myanmar acknowledge the jurisdiction of the ICJ — thereby implicitly granting the court standing to pass judgment on the Rohingya genocide?…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees gather behind a barbed-wire fence in a temporary settlement set up in a border zone between Myanmar and Bangladesh, in a photo taken from Maungdaw district, Myanmar's Rakhine state, in April 2018. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

I am Rohingya. When I was 3, my parents and I fled Myanmar to escape violence against my community — an ethnic minority group that is largely Muslim. Now, from afar, I watch in horror as a genocide against my people is unfolding. In the past two years, more than 700,000 Rohingya have fled murder, rape and torture for refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

This week, a United Nations investigative report laid bare the suffering and abuse that my people have endured in Myanmar (which we call Burma). It says that the 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine state are living in “unbearable conditions.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees shout slogans against repatriation to Myanmar at the Unchiprang camp near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh last month. (Dar Yasin/AP)

“We cannot go back,” declared Mohammad Ilyas, a refugee from Myanmar living in Bangladesh. Yet Ilyas is also uncertain whether he can remain: Like the roughly 1 million other Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, he cannot work or provide education for his children.

In an ideal world, refugees like Ilyas would be resettled to a third safe country, but few countries are willing to accept the Rohingya. As a result, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) announced last month that it is prepared to help Rohingya refugees visit Myanmar to consider returning home, or “repatriating.” Eventually, UNHCR could provide transport and aid for refugees permanently repatriating, as it did for Rohingya refugees in the 1990s.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees collect water at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh, on Aug. 8. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

By now, the world is well aware of the horrors experienced by Myanmar’s Rohingya minority over the past two years. Starting on Aug. 25, 2017, the Myanmar military unleashed a campaign of terror against the Rohingya in the country’s western Rakhine state, compelling virtually the entire community to flee. Since then, more than 700,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in neighboring Bangladesh.

This week, according to an agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar, the refugees are supposed to start going back. The problem: No one has ever asked us, the Rohingya, what we want. Once again our fate is being determined over our heads — without the slightest reference to our own desires.…  Seguir leyendo »

Reuters journalists Wa Lone, center, and Kyaw Soe Oo gesture as they prepare to leave the Insein township court in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sept. 3. They were both sentenced to seven years in prison after they were found guilty of violating a state-secrets act while working on a story. (Lynn Bo Bo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Two journalists in Myanmar have been imprisoned for nearly a year for after exposing the massacre of Rohingya Muslims. But this isn’t just a story about press freedom. It also underscores some of the greatest challenges facing the relationship between governments and the people they govern.

“We’re seeing more and more laws that criminalize speech and increasingly zealous prosecution under those laws in many countries”, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney told me last week in New York. “Governments who are not well-meaning will do whatever they can get away with. So the question is: Is there a proper international response? Do they have something to fear?…  Seguir leyendo »

Los rohingya y la jurisdicción universal

Naciones Unidas ha calificado de crimen de genocidio los actos atroces cometidos contra la etnia musulmana rohingya en Myanmar (antigua Birmania) perpetrados contra decenas de miles de sus miembros por su propio Gobierno, en el que Aung San Suu Kyi, premio Nobel de la Paz y otrora heroína por la libertad de su país, actúa como consejera de Estado, pero mira hacia otro lado, sin darse por aludida como parte supuestamente responsable. Estos hechos son un ejemplo de la barbarie que no por lejana geográficamente puede dejar de remover las conciencias ante la impunidad de la que han gozado hasta ahora sus perpetradores.…  Seguir leyendo »

La violencia de Dios

El trágico episodio de la limpieza étnica sufrida por los rohinyá musulmanes en Myanmar (Birmania) ha puesto en entredicho la sinceridad del compromiso de Suu Kyi con los valores humanos. De paso erosiona la imagen del budismo como religión de la no violencia (ahimsa).En su interminable lucha por la democracia contra los militares golpistas, la hoy presidenta en calidad de “consultora suprema”, The Lady, como era llamada por sus compatriotas, declaró siempre que la firmeza de sus actitudes se apoyaba en una empatía inclusiva de sus carceleros, en la “compasión”, y en el consiguiente rechazo de todo acto violento contra ellos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aung San Suu Kyi, left, Myanmar’s foreign minister and de facto leader, walks with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s commander in chief, in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on May 6, 2016.

In a stunning development this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) declared that it has jurisdiction over the Myanmar government’s crimes against the Rohingya minority. This comes not long after the scrupulously conservative United Nations issued a report calling for the military leadership in Myanmar, including Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing, to be investigated and prosecuted on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for its “clearance operations” against the Rohingya.

What is even more surprising, however, is that the country’s pro-democracy icon and current de facto leader of the civilian government in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, has also been identified in the U.N.…  Seguir leyendo »