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Crimes against Humanity in Western Burma: The Situation of the Rohingyas

 Category: Policies, Reports  Publisher: Irish Centre for Human Rights  Published: 16 June 2010  Tags: Irish Centre for Human RightsMyanmar GenocideRohingya |  Download


The plight of the Rohingyas has become better known since the start of 2009, in particular because of world-wide media coverage of the case of the so-called “boat people”, consisting of hundreds of Rohingyas who attempted to reach Thailand by boat and were subsequently mistreated there. Despite this new interest in the Rohingya community, very little work has been done to examine the root causes behind their continuous suffering. The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority group residing in North Arakan State in Western Burma. It is estimated that there are approximately 800,000 Rohingyas in Arakan State, and many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in other countries. There are disputes over the historical records, and whether the Rohingyas are an indigenous group or whether in fact they began entering Burma in the late 19th century. Even the very name ‘Rohingya’ has been disputed. Whatever position is taken on these questions, it is undeniable that the Rohingyas exist, and have done so for decades, as a significant minority group in North Arakan State. For many years, the Rohingyas have been enduring human rights abuses. These violations are on-going and in urgent need of attention and redress.

Irish Aid provided funding for independent research to be conducted by the Irish Centre for Human Rights on the situation of the Rohingyas. The content and views expressed in the resulting Report by the Irish Centre for Human Rights are entirely those of the authors. This Report is based on a fact-finding mission to the region, including Burma, as well as on extensive open-source research, and confidential meetings with organisations working in the region. Much of the most important information came from the many interviews conducted with Rohingya individuals in and around refugee camps in Bangladesh, where they were able to speak more freely than they can in Burma itself about the violations they had endured and which had caused them to flee their homes.

The Report examines the situation of the Rohingyas through the lens of crimes against humanity. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and international criminal law jurisprudence, especially that of the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, are used to provide detailed and clear legal foundations for the examination. As becomes evident in the individual chapters, there is a strong prima facie case for determining that crimes against humanity are being committed against the Rohingyas of North Arakan State in Burma.