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Rohingya And Responsibility To Protection - Part (2)

Aman Ullah
RB Article
May 5, 2015

“Myanmar won’t succeed if the Muslim population is oppressed.” 

President Obama

In March 2015, staff of the Simon-Skjodt center for the prevention of genocide traveled to Burma to investigate the threats facing the Rohingya, who has been subject to dehumanization through rampant hate speech, the denial of citizenship, and restrictions on freedom of movement, in addition to a host of other human rights violations that put this population at grave risk of additional mass atrocities and even genocide. 

The United States holocaust memorial museum’s work on genocide and related crimes against humanity is conducted by the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. The Simon-Skjodt Center is dedicated to stimulating timely global action to prevent genocide and to catalyze an international response when it occurs. The staff believes that conditions are ripe for genocide in Myanmar, also known as Burma, and found that many of the preconditions for genocide currently are taking place. 

What is Genocide? 

After the Holocaust, the United Nations created a new term — genocide — and defined it as any of the following actions committed with intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group: 

Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The term genocide was coined by the Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin, who wrote that “By genocide we mean the destruction of a nation or ethnic group". Lemkin went on to argue that “Genocide has two phases one, the destruction of the national identity of the oppressed group, the other, the imposition of the national identity of the oppressor."The distinctive feature of genocide, according to Lemkin, is that it aims to destroy a group rather than the individuals that make up the group. The ultimate purpose of genocide is to destroy the group's identity and impose the identity of the oppressor on the survivors. 

In 2008, the U.N. Security Council expanded the definition of genocide with the passage of Resolution 1820 noting that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide”

The crime of genocide

On December 9, 1948, in the shadow of the Holocaust and in no small part due to the tireless efforts of Lemkin himself, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes genocide as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It defines genocide as:

[A]ny of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

1. Killing members of the group;
2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The specific “intent to destroy” particular groups is unique to genocide. A closely related category of international law, crimes against humanity, is defined as widespread or systematic attacks against civilians.

While many cases of group-targeted violence have occurred throughout history and even since the convention came into effect, the legal and international development of the term genocide is concentrated into two distinct historical periods: the time from its coining until its acceptance as international law (1944–48) and the time of its activation with the establishment of international criminal tribunals to prosecute persons responsible for committing it (1991–98). Preventing genocide, the other major obligation of the convention, remains a challenge that nations and individuals continue to face.

The term “genocide” did not exist prior to 1944. It is a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against a group with the intent to destroy the existence of the group. Human rights, as laid out in the US Bill of Rights or the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concern the rights of individuals.

Early warning sign

· Physical violence targeted against Rohingya people, homes, and businesses 
· Physical segregation of the Rohingya from members of other ethnic groups
· Blockage of humanitarian assistance, including necessary health care 
· Deplorable living conditions for those displaced from their homes
· Rampant and unchecked hate speech against Rohingya and other Muslims
· Restrictions on movement
· Stripping of citizenship
· Destruction of mosques, onerous processes for Rohingya to maintain or fix mosques, and other restrictions on freedom of religion
· Extortion and illegal taxation
· Land confiscation
· Two-child policy and restrictions on marriage in some areas of Rakhine State
· “Supply checks” or raids by security forces on Rohingya homes
· Sexual violence and arbitrary arrest and detention
· Abuses in detention 
· Revocation of legal or other documents
· Inability to pursue livelihoods and restrictions on business opportunities
· Lack of opportunities to pursue education
· Restrictions on voting
· Government blockage of information flow in and out of Rohingya communities

Target of mass atrocities, including genocide

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide is mandated to monitor early warning signs of genocide and other atrocities and catalyze international action to prevent those crimes. According to them Burma deeply concerned that so many preconditions for genocide are already in place. With a recent history of mass atrocities and within a pervasive climate of hatred and fear, the Rohingya may once again become the target of mass atrocities, including genocide.

· Rohingya are the targets of state-sponsored discrimination and face severe restrictions on basic freedoms.
· Rohingya face a set of oppressive policies promulgated by the national, state, and local levels of government that are either codified in law or written as policy orders. 
· Rohingya suffer from a combination of state sponsored discrimination and popular hatred, which together creates a climate of racism, xenophobia, and hate, which has primed the country for future violence, including potential genocide. 
· One Rohingya advocate described the government’s strategy as one of “soft elimination” of the Rohingya.
· Rohingya are excluded from citizenship under Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law. The law renders most Rohingya stateless, which fuels extremist rhetoric that the Rohingya are foreigners who should not be in the country. One Rohingya advocate told us, “By denying us citizenship, they are denying our entire existence, our struggle, and our survival.” 
· Rohingya risk further vulnerability as their identification cards expire 

Most Rohingya live in Rakhine State, in western Burma. Local orders, enforced in northern Rakhine State, place onerous restrictions on basic freedoms by requiring official permission for Rohingya to travel, marry, and make repairs to buildings. There is a two-child policy enforced in the northern Rakhine townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung that only applies to Rohingya. Although the policy is enacted at the local level, politicians at the national and state level support the measure and describe the population control method as necessary and even beneficial for Rohingya. Penalties for disobeying the orders include fines or imprisonment. One Rohingya leader described the government’s policy as “an attempt to depopulate the Rohingya people.” 

Moving beyond Definitions into Action

The passage of the Convention changed the role of the international community in responding to genocide: state’s rights no longer superseded rights of individuals. This concept was declared in Article 1 stating that genocide “is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.”

While individuals and nations may debate whether a particular mass atrocity constitutes a true genocide, we believe the most important thing is that we remember past genocides and mass atrocities, we learn from them, and we strive to make a difference — by being aware and taking action together, we can stop and prevent mass atrocities, we can end genocide.

Every nation is responsible for protecting its own citizens from mass atrocities such as ethnic cleansing. Should a nation fail to protect its citizens from mass killings, either intentionally or through inability to act, it is the internationally community’s responsibility to protect the citizens being affected. These principles, which were agreed upon by the United States and other nations and ratified by the United Nations, are known as the Responsibility to Protect (or R2P) Doctrine.

The Responsibility to Protect doctrine, is a concept of state and international responsibility to citizens, which was adopted by the 60th Anniversary United Nations Summit. The doctrine states:

The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. 

To be continued.........

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