Submitted By Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate*
2 January 2017 – TRANSCEND Media Service
Dear President and Members of the UNSC,
As you are aware, a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar.
Highlighting the plight of victims of human trafficking, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 20 December 2016 underlined the need to ensure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators, as well as to address underlying factors by focusing on human rights and stability.
“If conflict gives oxygen to traffickers, human rights and stability suffocate them,” Mr. Ban told the Security Council today at its ministerial-level meeting on the theme trafficking in persons in conflict situations.
It also featured briefings from Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), And Zainab Hawa Bangura, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
We need strategic leadership in ending war – and also in preventing conflicts and sustaining peaceSecretary-General Ban
Security Council unanimously adopts resolution condemning in the strongest terms all instances of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflicts. UN Photo/Manuel Elias
“We need strategic leadership in ending war – and also in preventing conflicts and sustaining peace,” added the Secretary-General, noting the UN’s commitment to supporting its Member States in early action and in preventive diplomacy.
He further drew attention to the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure that the promise of “a life of dignity for all people” is delivered, and called on all countries to ratify all international human rights, refugee, labour rights and crime prevention conventions, and to put efforts into their effective implementation.
Addressing the Security Council Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscores the need to adopt gender-sensitive and rights-based policies to curb the root cause of trafficking. Credit: UN News Centre
“The majority of trafficking victims are women and girls. Our response must include special attention to their rights,” he noted.
He also underlined the need to decrease funding for terrorists to make everyone, and in particular those who risk being trafficked, safer.
“Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL/Da’esh], Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and others are using trafficking and sexual violence as a weapon of terror – and an important source of revenue,” he said.
He further highlighted the need to respect and implement international law as well as strengthen national legal protections to ensure justice and accountability. He also stressed the importance of supressing trafficking syndicates by targeting money-laundering and criminal proceeds.
“The problem of trafficking is international in nature – and only an international response can succeed,” said Ban, adding: “Let us work together to help today’s victims of trafficking while creating a more stable and just world for all.”
Member States urged to take ‘decisive and immediate action’ on human trafficking
Extremist groups restrict women’s rights, autonomy and freedoms, and use sexual violence as a tactic to strike fear into the hearts of civiliansSRSG Bangura
As an outcome of the meeting the Council adopted a consensus resolution, recognizing the various complexities and challenges of trafficking, in which it called on all UN Member States to take “decisive and immediate action” to prevent, criminalize, investigate, prosecute and ensure accountability of those who engage in trafficking in persons, including in the context of armed conflict.
In his remarks, Fedotov, UNODC chief warned that the pervasive nature of human trafficking meant that “there is no single measure, no one step in any given part of the world that can address this problem alone.”
Indeed, building effective action requires a strong framework of international cooperation and shared responsibility, starting with the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against Trafficking in Persons.
He went on to note that tomorrow, UNODC will launch the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, which provides a snapshot of the state of national responses to the challenges of human trafficking.
Based on reliable data and information provided by Member States, it establishes that an increasing number of trafficking victims from conflict-affected countries such as Syria, Iraq and Somalia have been detected in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Picking up that thread, Special Representative Bangura told the Council that a range of extremist groups are using sexual violence to advance their military, political, economic and ideological aims, pointing out that, of the 48 groups listed in her most recent report, 37 were non-State actors and seven are designated as terrorist groups.
“They restrict women’s rights, autonomy and freedoms, and use sexual violence as a tactic to strike fear into the hearts of civilians,” she explained.
UN envoy, Zainab Hawa Bangura says that sexual violence – largely targeting women and children – represents the front line in the world’s fight against violent extremism and terrorism. Credit: UN News Centre
And while this is not a new phenomenon and neither was the trafficking in and exploitation of women and girls, she said, the combination of those two evils today seems “unprecedented” in its scope and brazen brutality.
Recognizing sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism calls for a rethinking of the response, she said, noting that the crime represented the very front line in the battle against violent extremism. “To disrupt human trafficking was to help disrupt the business of terrorism,” she said. (SOURCE: UN).
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Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to protect the Rohingya population.
30 December 2016
Over the past two months, a military offensive by the Myanmar Army in Rakhine State has led to the killing of hundreds of Rohingya people. Over 30,000 people have been displaced.
Houses have been burned, women raped, many civilians arbitrarily arrested, and children killed. Crucially, access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor.
Thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, only to be sent back. Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide. It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies – Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo.
The head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Bangladesh side of the border, John McKissick, has accused Myanmar’s government of ethnic cleansing. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee has condemned the restricted access to Rakhine State as “unacceptable.”
The Rohingyas are among the world’s most persecuted minorities, who for decades have been subjected to a campaign of marginalisation and dehumanisation. In 1982, their rights to citizenship were removed, and they were rendered stateless, despite living in the country for generations.
They have endured severe restrictions on movement, marriage, education and religious freedom. Yet despite the claims by government and military, and many in society, that they are in fact illegal Bengali immigrants who have crossed the border, Bangladesh does not recognise them either.
Their plight intensified dramatically in 2012 when two severe outbreaks of violence resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a new apartheid between Rohingya Muslims and their Rakhine Buddhist neighbours. Since then they have existed in ever more dire conditions. This latest crisis was sparked by an attack on Myanmar border police posts on 9 October, in which nine Myanmar police officers were killed.
The truth about who carried out the attack, how and why, is yet to be established, but the Myanmar military accuse a group of Rohingyas. Even if that is true, the military’s response has been grossly disproportionate.
It would be one thing to round up suspects, interrogate them and put them on trial. It is quite another to unleash helicopter gunships on thousands of ordinary civilians and to rape women and throw babies into a fire.
According to one Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty International, “they shot at people who were fleeing. They surrounded the village and started going from house to house. They were verbally abusing the people. They were threatening to rape the women.”
Another witness described how her two sons were arbitrarily arrested: “It was early in the morning, the military surrounded our house, while some came in and forced me and my children to go outside. They tied my two sons up. They tied their hands behind their backs, and they were beaten badly.
The military kicked them in the chest. I saw it myself. I was crying so loudly. When I cried, they [the military] pointed a gun at me. My children were begging the military not to hit them. They were beaten for around 30 minutes before being taken away”. She has not seen them since.
Despite repeated appeals to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas. Daw Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion.
We urge the United Nations to do everything possible to encourage the Government of Myanmar to lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid, so that people receive emergency assistance. Access for journalists and human rights monitors should also be permitted, and an independent, international inquiry to establish the truth about the current situation should be established.
Furthermore, we urge the members of UN Security Council to put this crisis on Security Council’s agenda as a matter of urgency, and to call upon the Secretary-General to visit Myanmar in the coming weeks as a priority. If the current Secretary-General is able to do so, we would urge him to go; if not, we encourage the new Secretary-General to make it one of his first tasks after he takes office in January.
It is time for the international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly. After Rwanda, world leaders said “never again”. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say “never again” all over again. Sincerely,
Professor Muhammad Yunus
2006 Nobel Peace Laureate
1996 Nobel Peace Laureate
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
1984 Nobel Peace Laureate
1987 Nobel Peace Laureate
1997 Nobel Peace Laureate
2003 Nobel Peace Laureate
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate
2014 Nobel Peace Laureate
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate
Sir Richard J. Roberts
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Former Prime Minister of Italy
Former Italian Foreign Minister
Founder and Editor, The Huffington Post
Sir Richard Branson
Business Leader and Philanthropist
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Business Leader and Philanthropist
SDG Advocate, Film Director
SDG Advocate, Voice of Libyan Women
Human Rights Activist
Download PDF File: Letter UNSC Rohingya Crisis Myanmar Nobel Laureates
*Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 2 January 2017: TMS: Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar: Nobel Laureates Urge Action over ‘Ethnic Cleansing’,
2017 Human Wrongs Watch