Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, urging him to speak out publicly against the imminent planned repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar amid alarming reports that many Rohingya included in the plan have not been consulted. The letter, from PHR Executive Director Donna McKay, voices deep concern over reports that many of the 4,355 Rohingya refugees slated for return have not provided informed consent and are vehemently opposed to making the potentially dangerous, even deadly, move back to Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The repatriation is scheduled to begin on November 15.
Based on a September report by the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, there were “horrors inflicted on Rohingya men, women and children” in attacks on Rakhine state in August 2017, constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity, with possible “genocidal intent.” PHR’s own forensic evaluations of injuries sustained by Rohingya survivors from hamlets across Rakhine state revealed horrific physical and psychological trauma, including gunshot wounds, blunt force trauma, stabbings, mutilations, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more.
PHR is calling on Guterres to publicly oppose repatriation until such time as Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh can voluntarily choose to return, with actionable guarantees of safety, security, dignity, and adequate access to health, education, property, freedom of movement, and citizenship – all of which have been denied to them in the past.
The letter reads: “We call on you to defend the safety of this traumatized population and to speak out publicly in the strongest of terms against imminent moves by the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments to repatriate any Rohingya. In the absence of any transparent and predictable consultation and informed consent process that makes the safety and security of the Rohingya a top priority, the Rohingya should be allowed to continue to seek refuge in Bangladesh, or any other place of their choosing, with the full support of the United Nations and other international organizations.”
Read PHR’s full letter here.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.