Thank you. I apologize for the delay and appreciate your understanding.
I would really like to thank the subcommittee for inviting us here to share an update on the Rohingya crisis.
My name, as you said, is Ahmed Ramadan. I'm the outreach coordinator for the Burma Task Force, which is a main project of the Justice for All Coalition. We are a coalition of organizations with the aim of bringing the persecution of the Rohingya to an end, getting the Rohingya their citizenship back, having them live peacefully in their ancestral lands, and bringing to justice the perpetrators. We believe that impunity leads to more violence.
I would like to thank the subcommittee for the report it submitted to the House of Commons. In all honesty, a lot of what you recommended is what we also stand for. We were really happy. We felt that your report was extraordinary. Many of terms used in that are being used widely now by the United Nations and other organizations, like “crimes against humanity” and “ethnic cleansing”.
I would like to bring to your attention the UN flash report from February 3, 2017. I'm sure that the subcommittee has already come across it. I would just like to highlight the brutality mentioned in this report: entire villages have been burned, children and babies burned and throats slit, and there have been gang rapes, mass graves, and the list goes on.
This report did set off a series of events. The special rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, who was behind the report, suggested that there could be crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. She said that government policy appears to be aimed at expelling the Rohingya, and cited the dismantling of homes and use of a household survey whereby the absent may be struck off the list, which is their only legal proof of their status. She called on a commission of inquiry to investigate the systematic structural and institutional discrimination in policy, law, and practice, as well as the long-standing persecution of against the Rohingya.
The UN did adopt an inquiry, but it wasn't a commission of inquiry, but an independent investigation, which is not as strong as a commission. She was disappointed by it, but at the same time the international community, all the NGOs and human rights activists, were happy about this independent inquiry. However, they were fearful that words weren't translating into actions, so they wanted to see real action result from the words.
I want to point out a couple of things that were in the report and the response to the report.
In regard to the Kofi Annan commission, he has called on Aung San Suu Kyi to allow for humanitarian access, to allow media access to affected areas, to pursue accountability for alleged human rights violations, and to establish a clear path to citizenship, and to close all displacement camps. There are a few problems, however, with this Kofi Annan commission. As Yanghee Lee points out, it doesn't have an all-encompassing mandate, meaning that it is not there to investigate human rights abuse. This will lead to impunity. There is no Rohingya representation on this commission. Two of the members have made genocidal comments toward the Rohingya, notably Daw Saw Khin Tint, who has been quoted as an apologist for genocide in News Weekly.
There's also one minor point I would like to point out about the subcommittee's report, just as a clarification. It mentioned that there was violence between the Muslim and Buddhist communities and that the Buddhists were influencing the policy of the government, when in reality, from all the reports that we've studied and looked at, the people we've interviewed, and other members of the Rohingya community, and other activists, it is the government that is influencing the Buddhist extremism. So this is a state-sanctioned aggression by the government toward the Rohingya, and they are using the emotions of the Buddhist majority, and the extremists among them, in order to accomplish their goal. I just wanted to point that out, because it's important to realize that this is institutionalized within the Myanmar government, which has repeatedly denied the existence of the Rohingya, yet its policies all correlate with the aggression I have mentioned.
I would just like to quickly discuss Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San Suu Kyi's government reacts with crude denials, the censoring of its independent press, and the barring of human rights activists entering the country. Early in 2016, she demanded that foreign governments refrain from using the term “Rohingya”, and the Myanmar government's public statements continued to simultaneously demonize and deny the existence of Rohingya identity. Neither she nor her president has taken the trouble to visit to Rakhine State during the current crisis.
As a report on her rule notes:
Aung San Suu Kyi, as the country’s de-facto leader, must be seen as ultimately responsible for the atrocities being perpetrated against the Rohingya. The evidence of genocide is now irrefutable. The Rohingya need strong advocates—they need the world to understand that the persecution they face is genocidal and that only enormous pressure on the Myanmar government will succeed in halting the devastation.
This report was done by the International State Crime Initiative at London's Queen Mary University. These are the results they came up with.
Although I have a lot more to say, I'm going to end it here to give time for questions. I'll pass it over to Anwar to see if he wants to add anything.