Rohingya : France is very concerned [fr]
The situation in Myanmar
Statement by Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, Chargée d’Affaires a.i.
Security Council - 28 August 2018
Allow me, first of all, to warmly thank you, Mr. President, for having taken the initiative of convening this meeting almost a year to the day after the beginning of the crisis in Rakhine state. I would also like to commend the personal commitment of the Secretary-General in drawing attention to and mobilizing international action to be taken on behalf of this tragedy. I would also like to warmly thank the Goodwill Ambassador for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ms. Cate Blanchett, and Assistant Secretary-General Tegegnework Gettu for their briefings on this situation, which deserves the continued and resolute attention of the Security Council.
Almost a year ago, before the General Assembly, the President of France denounced the ethnic cleansing suffered by the Rohingya (see A/72/PV.4). Since then, France has consistently stressed its concern about the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in an organized, coordinated and systematic manner in Rakhine state. I would like to make three observations today.
First, commitments have been made by the Burmese authorities and must now be fully implemented. While those are first steps that should be encouraged, the progress seen on the ground remains very limited and is not commensurate with the scale and gravity of the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that have been committed. In that regard, France is very concerned by the conclusions of the advance version of the report of the Human Rights Council’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission in Myanmar (A/HRC/39/64), according to which the Burmese army could be accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, which fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. France calls on the international community to undertake determined action to collect and protect evidence, and to ensure that those responsible for the crimes committed against the Rohingya population be brought to justice.
France also reiterates its call on the Burmese authorities to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission. We have taken note of Burma’s establishment of a commission of inquiry on human rights violations. However, at this stage, we have no information guaranteeing the independence or the impartiality of that mechanism, or on the protection provided to witnesses. We also condemn the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed against children. We hope that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Mrs. Virginia Gamba de Potgieter, who recently visited the country, will soon be able to brief the Council on her mission and provide it with an update.
We also welcome the conclusion in June of a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which is an essential step to enable the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees when the time comes. Nonetheless, we are concerned about ongoing restrictions of access. Only unimpeded access to all affected villages and communities will allow us to determine whether the conditions for such returns have been met.
With regard to the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, led by the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan, figures are regularly put forward by the Burmese authorities, but we have very little concrete information on how the measures are actually being implemented. France reiterates in particular the importance of the recommendations related to the issue of citizenship, revising the 1982 law and ensuring equal rights for all members of the Rohingya community. We also support the recommendations concerning the freedom of movement, media access and socioeconomic development in Rakhine state.
Secondly, I would like to focus briefly on the humanitarian dimension of the crisis. France, both in its national capacity and within the European Union, is providing support to Bangladesh, which continues to host on its territory, with admirable generosity, almost 1 million Rohingya refugees living in particularly precarious conditions. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and all of the humanitarian organizations and United Nations agencies concerned have done outstanding work. The international community must continue to support Bangladesh and humanitarian agencies in accordance with three priorities: first, by increasing its contributions to the United Nations humanitarian response plan, which is currently funded at only 33 per cent; secondly, by continuing to take the measures necessary to protect the Rohingya people from security and health risks in camps; and, thirdly, by continuing to support Bangladesh, humanitarian actors and local host populations to make the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees as sustainable as possible, while preserving Bangladesh’s national prospects for economic development. Special attention must be paid to the needs of children, particularly with regard to education, and to the needs of women who have suffered untold violence. I still think about the images and testimonies of the women whom we met during our visit last spring to Cox’s Bazar.
My final point is that the Security Council and the international community must remain fully committed to ensuring close monitoring of the full implementation of November’s presidential statement (S/PRST/2017/22) and of the tripartite agreement concluded among Burma’s civilian Government, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Development Programme regarding the return of refugees.
The response to the tragedy of the Rohingya requires addressing the root causes of the crisis. It also requires justice to be done. The Council had an opportunity several weeks ago to thoroughly exchange views with the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Ms. Christine Schraner Burgener, and to express to her its full support in the discharge of her duties. We encourage the Burmese authorities to continue to collaborate closely with the Special Envoy in order to arrive at a lasting solution. The week of high-level general debate of the General Assembly, to be held next month, will also be an opportunity to pursue mobilization. In the absence of tangible progress on the ground over the coming weeks, we will need to carefully consider what new steps the Council could take to respond to the Rohingya refugee crisis.