The ICJ today addressed an emergency Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Myanmar, outlining key requirements for the protection of the Rohingya minority, including safe and voluntary return of refugees.The Special Session is expected to adopt a resolution to address “The human rights situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.”
The ICJ statement read as follows:
“It is encouraging that the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar have recognized the right of displaced Rohingya to return to their places of residence.
However, any provisions for return must comply with international law, including as regards non-refoulement. Effective guarantees that all displaced persons will be able to return to their place of prior residence in a safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable manner, without discrimination, are essential.
Rohingya refugees must also be provided with alternatives to return, including the option of seeking international protection. Anything short of this would amount to their forcible return and thus violate the non-refoulement principle.
It is of the utmost urgency that the gross and systematic violations that have given rise to the forced displacement are immediately brought to an end and that measures are taken to prevent their recurrence, including by holding perpetrators responsible.
No-one may be forcibly returned to the current circumstances that prevail in Rakhine State, and voluntary returns will only ultimately take place if and when refugees are satisfied they are not returning to further violations in Myanmar.
Any provisions for restrictions on freedom of movement upon return are also of concern, particularly given past experience, with internment camps housing tens of thousands of Muslims displaced in 2012 still in place. Such restrictions elsewhere in Rakhine State contribute to violations of, among other things, the human rights to life, to health, to food, to education and to livelihoods.
To ensure that the rights of refugees are respected and protected, Bangladesh and Myanmar should immediately seek to ensure that UNHCR is involved, and its guidance followed, in any discussion of repatriation processes.
The Government of Myanmar must cooperate with the UN-mandated Fact Finding Mission to independently establish facts and provide a proper foundation for effective responses to human rights violations and humanitarian crises in Rakhine State, as well as in Shan and Kachin States, whose populations also face related patterns of human rights violations by military and security forces.”
The Council adopted a resolution at the end of the session, which reflects many of the concerns raised by the ICJ and others: A_HRC_S_27_L1