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Rohingya Repatriation Dangerous Without Accountability

Myanmar’s Rakhine state, from which hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were driven last year, is still experiencing unrest, and incidents of violence are continuing along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) reiterates that plans for an imminent Rohingya repatriation should be suspended until there is sustainable change in the region to ensure that safety and human rights are respected, and that those responsible for targeted attacks against the Rohingya are held accountable. Eventual repatriation must include guarantees of security, dignity, and respect of Rohingya human rights in Myanmar, including adequate access to health, education, property, freedom of movement, and citizenship, all of which have been denied to them in the past.

The following statement is attributable to Susannah Sirkin, PHR’s director of international policy and partnerships:

“The joint Myanmar-Bangladesh plan to repatriate more than 2,200 Rohingya, starting next week, at a rate of 150 people per day, is deeply troubling because the proper environment for repatriation has yet to be created. Despite conclusions by a UN-mandated fact-finding mission that senior Myanmar military officials should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, no one in Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has yet taken any measures to guarantee the safety of the Rohingya, let alone been held accountable. What we have seen are repeated denials of the scale and severity of the gross human rights violations that took place against the Rohingya in Rakhine state, displacing more than 800,000 people and brutally killing hundreds more.

“There must be tangible improvements on the ground and the implementation of a survivor-centered approach from both Myanmar and Bangladesh, if any repatriation is to take place. Furthermore, there need to be significant steps taken by the Myanmar leadership to respect and protect the fundamental human rights of the Rohingya. While PHR is encouraged by the establishment of an investigative mechanism to collect, analyze and preserve evidence, as part of a plan for a far-reaching independent hearing before the International Criminal Court, more needs to be done by the Myanmar leadership.

“The Rohingya have been marginalized. They have been slaughtered, persecuted, and driven out. One cannot bring survivors back to Rakhine state without having guarantees for their safety. Most displaced Rohingya have been confined to camps in Bangladesh for more than a year without access to proper shelters, health care, or education. The trauma has been severe, and justice and accountability play a large role in ensuring people feel safe and respected.

“Any attempt to hastily repatriate the population from Bangladesh, without adequate measures, could result in more violence. Therefore, PHR is calling for the suspension of the planned repatriation, scheduled for mid-November, until there are actionable guarantees and sustainable conditions for a safe, dignified, and voluntary return for the Rohingya, overseen by international human rights monitors based within Rakhine state, with full and unfettered access.

“Ultimately, there must be security for the Rohingya and other persecuted minorities in Myanmar. We must see accountability, as well as punitive measures brought against those who are still in positions of power who ordered or carried out attacks in Rakhine state. Without justice and accountability, sustainable peace is simply not possible.”

Read more about PHR’s Rohingya research and investigations.

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.

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