An awareness on the severity of the suffering of the Rohingya [fr]
Burma - Statement by Mrs Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations Mme Anne Gueguen - Security Council - 14 May 2018
Allow me to begin by warmly thanking Kuwait, Peru and the United Kingdom for their efforts in organizing and conducting this mission, which was a particularly important moment for all of us. I also thank Bangladesh and Burma for their hospitality.
The field visits, in particular to the zero line, Kutupalong camp and northern Rakhine, and the various interviews allowed Council members to determine for themselves the severity of the suffering of the Rohingya, the extent of the destruction in northern Rakhine and the complexity of the crisis and the urgency with which it must be resolved. I should like to give an overview of what France took away from the visit and the priorities that we believe should guide international action, in particular by the United Nations, in support of Rohingya refugees.
1/ In Bangladesh, we witnessed the admirable efforts and generosity of the Government and of the local population, which, in all, are hosting more than 1 million Rohingya refugees, who are particularly vulnerable and live in very precarious conditions. That exemplary hospitality must be sustained. We also noted that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and all the relevant United Nations and humanitarian agencies and organizations are doing an outstanding job in that regard. For France, the immediate strengthening of international support would mean action on three fronts.
First, the funding rate for the humanitarian response plan must be increased, as it remains well below that required to meet current needs. According to the most recent assessment provided by UNHCR, the rate stands at 16 per cent.
Secondly, there is an urgent need for appropriate measures and steps to be taken to meet needs and protect the Rohingya in order to prepare for monsoon-related security and health risks in refugee camps. Such measures, which the Government of Bangladesh has started to take, include the reinforcement and relocation of shelters.
Thirdly, we must continue to assist Bangladesh, humanitarian workers and local host communities in ensuring that the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees are as bearable as possible, while preserving the promising national goal of economic development for Bangladesh. It is essential that specific attention be paid to the needs of children, including with regard to education, and of women who have suffered unspeakable violence.
2/ Interviews in Burma served to reiterate the expectations of the Security Council to civil and military authorities, which are very clearly expressed in the presidential statement of 6 November 2017 (S/PRST/2017/22). France’s priority remains the full implementation of that statement. Commitments have been made, but that is not enough, as the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom just underscored. France therefore calls upon the Burmese authorities to take the following measures.
First, it is important to address the root causes of the crisis by fully cooperating with the new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and by committing to implementing all of the recommendations in the Annan report. The Rohingya, whose nationality the Burmese Government has withdrawn based on a law adopted in 1982, make up the largest group of stateless persons in the world. There can be no just or sustainable solution for their plight, or assurance of the rule of law in Burma, if they are not recognized as Burmese citizens and allowed to fully enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms. That will be achieved only when their citizenship is restored.
Secondly, the Burmese authorities must conduct investigations and prosecute those who commit systematic human rights abuses in Rakhine state, including sexual violence, and cooperate with the United Nations on the issue. The testimony heard by the members of the delegation on the violence and abuse suffered by the Rohingya is harrowing. The destruction observed in northern Rahkine state of homes, mosques and villages burned to the ground speaks for itself. The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing; there is no other word for it. Prosecuting the perpetrators of such crimes is a moral, legal and political imperative. Starting today, the Burmese authorities can send a positive sign by agreeing to cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission, establishing an on-site office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights and cooperating with him. Together we must also reflect on the best way to collect and protect evidence, which, when the time comes, will enable the perpetrators of such atrocities to be prosecuted in a fair and just trial with full respect for the law. France recalls that the forced displacement of people constitutes a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and we note that Bangladesh is party to it.
Thirdly, restoring immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access is imperative. It is essential that the Burmese authorities sign the memorandum of understanding with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Development Programme so as to demonstrate their commitment to respecting international standards on refugees. The onus is on the Burmese authorities to create conditions conducive to the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees who, regrettably, are not all in the same location. Accepting technical assistance and expertise from the specialized agencies of the United Nations is the best way to achieve that goal. The challenges are real. Under no circumstances can inaction be justified. Specific commitments with regard to the points I just mentioned will serve to create the necessary conditions.
This year we mark the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which I recall was adopted following the genocide and massacre of the Second World War to prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy. Let me conclude by citing article 1.“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” I urge the Council to see reason and appeal to its conscience because the plight of the Rohingya underscores that respect for the most fundamental principle of the Charter of the United Nations is at stake. Its Preamble reaffirms faith in fundamental freedoms, dignity and the worth of the human person. The Security Council and we, the Members of the United Nations, are duty-bound to ensure respect for those principles.