Posts Tagged ‘Rohingya’

About the struggle against statelessness

July 10, 2019

Amal de Chickera of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion worre on 5 July 2019 an OPINION: “We need to build a global statelessness movement”.

…The denial of the right to a nationality and resultant statelessness is a condition imposed on people (almost always through violating international law), with the intention of weakening them. Statelessness is thus, nothing short of violence. Even as the words and actions of many world leaders cheapen human rights and lives; promote insularity, narrow nationalism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny and hypocrisy and disproportionately target the most vulnerable; those denied legal status, the stateless and those at risk of statelessness are inevitably targeted by the politics of hatred and fear.

Be they Rohingya of Myanmar, refugees fleeing Syria, minorities in Assam India, Dominicans of Haitian origin, single Nepalese mothers, those accused of terrorism in the UK, human rights defenders in Bahrain, or those languishing in camps at the American border; we repeatedly witness the denial of status, the right to a nationality and (risk of) statelessness as a consequence and cause of discrimination, exclusion and hardship.

If the right to a nationality and inclusion were a house, it would be no exaggeration to say global politics and events have (again) lit a spark under its wooden foundation.

Confronted with this reality, over a year ago, our Institute decided to organise a World Conference on Statelessness. This may appear a strange decision, considering the number of all-consuming emergencies globally, but our motivation stemmed from a sense that we cannot always be in reaction mode.

We must confront the issue on the front foot, finding inclusive, creative and effective ways to promote the right to nationality. The conference brought together 300 activists, advocates, academics, artists and others from 60+ countries. One participant referred to it as the ‘A team’, not merely for the alliterative descriptors, but because of the commitment shown to come together and create something bigger and better than the sum of our parts.

But what does this mean?

On an issue as complex and intersectional as statelessness, spanning numerous fields including human rights, migration, child rights, development, feminism, humanitarianism, conflict, economics and politics (to name but some), it is evident that there are no simple or straightforward solutions. The conference however did throw up some clear indicators:

  1. The grand challenges of statelessness: the conference was structured around 10 Grand Challenges focusing on global crises and big issues – the Rohingya, Syria, gender discrimination, citizenship stripping and legal identity etc. These issues are bigger than statelessness but can only be resolved if the right to a nationality and statelessness is understood and prioritised.
  2. The underlying problems: The underlying causes of exclusion and statelessness are most often racism, patriarchy and xenophobia. We can tell right from wrong when a racist attacks a minority child, a misogynist harasses a woman, or a xenophobe abuses a migrant. But when this happens under the cloak of law, procedure and official language, we respond not with anger, but tolerance. We try to find a middle ground. The Kuwaiti Bidoon, the Nepali mother or stateless refugee in Greece are not searching for middle ground. They demand their rights.
  3. Celebrating successes: We have many successes to celebrate, including the Makonde successfully securing their Kenyan citizenship and Sierra Leone passing a gender equal nationality law. We must learn from our successes, as we do from our defeats.
  4. Inclusive, interdisciplinary and effective: We have to confront inequalities among ourselves, accepting the very real barriers to inclusion we face, challenging ourselves to diversify our work and our partners, and ultimately transcend the limitations of our own organisations and contexts, creating something bigger, that cannot be claimed by one entity.
  5. Activists front and centre: A global movement must have courageous activists who defy the odds to fight for their people. We who are not directly impacted by statelessness must step aside and let the real experts set the agenda, guide us and hold us to account.

We have a long way to go, but the stakes cannot be higher. The more nationality is instrumentalised and viewed as a privilege to be taken away from the undeserving, the more we will see people and groups being labelled as such, so they may be excluded, denied and deprived. Our house is burning and we can only stem the fire through a global movement and working together.

SEE ALSO: https://www.unhcr.org/protection/statelessness/53b698ab9/handbook-protection-stateless-persons.html

http://news.trust.org//item/20190705101713-ajq91/

Breaking news: Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo freed in Myanmar

May 7, 2019

All the mainstream media (here Al Jazeera) are reporting that today the Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were freed from Myanmar jail.

Earlier on Tuesday, Myanmar said it will release 6,520 prisoners in an amnesty, according to a statement from the president’s office.  President Win Myint pardoned thousands of prisoners in two mass amnesties last month. It is customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17.

We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters,” Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said in a statement. “Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return.” Reuters has said the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/jailed-reuters-journalists-freed-prison-myanmar-190507024627552.html

1 Million $ Aurora Prize Awarded to Rohingya Human Rights Defender Kyaw Hla Aung

June 10, 2018

Kyaw Hla Aung

Kyaw Hla Aung Photo: Aurora
The third Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and activist recognized for his dedication to fighting for equality, education and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar, in the face of persecution, harassment and oppression. The award comes with 1 million USD to be given by the Laureate to other organisations. For more on this and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/inaugural-aurora-prize-1-million-goes-to-marguerite-barankitse-founder-of-burundian-orphanage/Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Prize and Member of the Selection Committee, commended Mr. Aung, stating: “As we remember the horrors and violence experienced by Armenians – especially women and children – on the deportation route during the Genocide, it is with a great sense of responsibility that we stand ready to support Kyaw Hla Aung’s advocacy work that will hopefully lead one day to the enactment of national and international policies to protect and defend the vulnerable. Kyaw Hla Aung is doing tremendous work, at great risk to himself, and exemplifies the far-reaching impact one person can have to galvanize a movement, and to help individuals transform their lives.

As the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung will receive a $ 100,000 grant and he will donate $ 1,000,000 award to:
•    Médecins Sans Frontières (London)
•    Malaysian Medical Relief – MERCY Malaysia (Malaysia)
•    International Catholic Migration Commission – ICMC (Switzerland, USA)

Kyaw Hla Aung has been working for decades, using his legal expertise to appeal for basic human rights for the stateless Rohingya people. His commitment to fight for justice for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in Myanmar persecuted by the government, and for the children who no longer have access to education, remains stronger than ever. He sacrificed a total of 12 years in prison as a result of his mission, at huge personal cost to his own family.  On being named the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung said: “There are severe restrictions on my people. They have lost their courage and faith in themselves, have become illiterate, and, as a result, are penniless. It has been heartbreaking to see my community suffer from such discrimination. The support of the Aurora Prize serves as important recognition for all of the Muslim victims of human rights violations, as the plight of the Rohingya people continues to become more visible to the international public.”

Kyaw Hla Aung was congratulated by Dr. Tom Catena, who was awarded the 2017 Aurora Prize for his exceptional commitment to providing urgent medical care to the 750,000 people in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan. He said: “The Aurora Prize has created a true light for our people in Nuba, and has helped rebuild the resilience of our community, ultimately to keep people alive. I am proud to share the Aurora Prize mantle with such a selfless humanitarian as Kyaw Hla Aung. I congratulate him on receiving this award and applaud his incredibly selfless efforts fighting for such a noble cause.”  [see also” https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/28/nominations-are-open-for-the-2018-aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity/]

Guests of the Aurora Prize Ceremony also honored the contributions of the other two 2018 Aurora Prize Humanitarians: Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, women’s rights advocate and Co-Founder of Prajwala, India, and Father Tomás González Castillo, Founder of La 72, a center that supports Central American migrants in Mexico.

https://mediamax.am/en/news/society/28882/

http://hetq.am/eng/news/89973/$11-million-aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity-awarded-to-rohingya-human-rights-defender-kyaw-hla-aung.html

The weekly program Just Asia, full of news

February 10, 2018

This week’s ‘television programme’ Just Asia (9 February 20018) covers a number of important issues:
Burma: the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner warning that the government’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority has the potential to spark regional conflict. “It is sometimes said that today’s human rights violations will become tomorrow’s conflicts.”  Also this week, the Associated Press confirmed at least five mass graves found in Rakhine, through multiple interviews and time-stamped cell phone videos. The graves are the newest piece of evidence suggesting genocide.
Indonesia: the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, ended 7 February. Among the Commissioner’s various meetings, two important ones were the civil society meeting hosted by Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the meeting with victims of human rights violations hosted by the National Commission on Human Rights. Local groups are hopeful that the high profile visit will significantly influence human rights development in Indonesia. Moreover, Mr. Zeid ended his visit with the announcement that his office would soon send a mission to West Papua to learn about the human rights situation there. (with an interview with Mr. Bedjo Untung, a Survivor of the 1965-1966 massacre)
The Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s political allies are proposing to amend the Constitution, to change the country’s presidential form of government to a federal one. While focusing on political changes, the current constitutional debate is silent on constitutional rights. Philippines’1987 Constitution includes the Bill of Rights and many provisions relating to social justice. These are the culmination of a people’s aspirations after suffering for years under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Any debate on constitutional change must therefore include discussion on the protection of constitutional rights.
Nepal, Plain clothes police arrested 14 year old Sandip Prasai on 1 February, and accused him of being a thief and a drug addict. Sandip was admitted to a hospital on February 4, where the doctors said there are no visible signs of injuries on his body, but he has suffered from panic attacks. Activists are calling on the government to investigate the incident and suitably punish the officers involved in beating a juvenile.
The bulletin can be watched online at www.alrc.asia/justasia and AHRC TV YouTube.
see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/just-asia-just-continues-with-its-human-rights-television/
https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/16/amila-sampath-the-man-behind-the-video-service-of-just-asia/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDPQ5KwOu0o&feature=youtu.be

Last straw?: U.N. Human Rights Rapporteur Barred By Myanmar

December 21, 2017

 Yanghee Lee, U.N. human rights special rapporteur to Myanmar, talks to journalists during a news briefing in Yangon, Myanmar, in July 2017.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, says she has been told that the Myanmar government will neither cooperate with her nor grant her access to the country for the remainder of her tenure. Lee was scheduled to visit Myanmar in January to assess human rights in the country, particularly in western Rakhine state, where the Rohingya are concentrated.

I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar Government,she said in a statement.This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.” “Only two weeks ago, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative informed the Human Rights Council of its continuing cooperation with the UN, referencing the relationship with my role as Special Rapporteur,” Lee said. Amnesty International called Myanmar’s decision to bar Ms Lee “outrageous”. James Gomez, the group’s director for Asia and the Pacific, said: “It is a further indication that authorities will do anything they can to avoid international scrutiny of their human rights record.”  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/01/murder-of-human-rights-defender-ko-ni-in-myanmar/]

The U.N. says more than 630,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since ongoing military attacks that began in August. Doctors Without Borders estimates that 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown. Refugees streaming into neighboring Bangladesh have brought with them tales of rape and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s soldiers.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain told the BBC this week that Myanmar’s nominal leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the head of the country’s armed forces could potentially face charges of genocide for their role in the crackdown. “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high enough level,” he told the BBC. “And then there’s the crime of omission. That if it came to your knowledge that this was being committed, and you did nothing to stop it, then you could be culpable as well for that.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

Myanmar’s refusal to cooperate with the U.N. comes as the country set up a joint working committee for the return of Rohingya refugees with Bangladesh — where hundreds of thousands are housed in squalid border camps. Under an agreement signed last month in Dhaka, a 30-member working group is to be set up for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya.

The authorities last week arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists who have been covering the Rohingya crisis, and the men are being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. They were arrested after being invited to dine with police officers on the outskirts of Yangon, the commercial capital.  After the arrests, the ministry of information released a picture of the men in handcuffs and alleged they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/20/572197324/u-n-human-rights-investigator-barred-by-myanmar

https://www.ft.com/content/6f0674ec-e57d-11e7-97e2-916d4fbac0da

Wai Wai Nu: Profile of a Human rights defender from Myanmar/Burma

February 15, 2016

If you threaten human rights defenders, you break the eyes, mouths, legs, and arms of the people’, said the Wai Wai Nu, Director of Women Peace Network Arakan in Myanmar/Burma.

Ms Wai Wai Nu is a Burmese human rights defender committed to working for peace and justice in her country. She is the Director the Women Peace Network Arakan, which she founded in 2012 upon her and her family’s release from prison after seven years of detention.  ‘When I was released, I saw some positive changes in cities but not in rural areas:  not in areas where ethnic minorities lived.  It was then I took responsibility to work for my people’.

The Women Peace Network Arakan carries out civic education and works for the empowerment of women and young people. The Network also encourages interfaith dialogue to build much-needed trust between religious communities. Ms Nu – herself a member of the Rohinga Muslim community – is vocal about the rights of minorities  in Burma. She stresses that the notion of democracy needs to be understood beyond a strict notion of parliamentary democracy where the majority rules. Upholding the rights of the many minority communities in the country requires commitment to democratic processes that respect and protect rights, including land rights.

There are so many human rights violations occurring in Burma – from land grabbing, and sexual violence in conflict areas, to media restrictions, and attacks against human rights defenders. We work with young people, who tend to be open-minded, encouraging them to engage with the spirit of democracy, to work for the promotion of justice and human rights for all’.

Ms Nu is also co-founder of ‘Justice for Women’, which works to promote women’s rights, raises awareness about sexual harassment and discrimination and provides basic legal education.

With the political reforms in Burma since 2011, opportunities for human rights defenders to operate in the country have opened up. However, the environment for defending rights remains restricted and attacks against defenders numerous.  The changing political landscape has seen a rapid increase in foreign companies operating in the country and with it  reported threats against HRDs working in the field of economic, social, and cultural rights. Human rights defenders have experienced arbitrary arrest and former detainees report the fear of re-arrest.

We have to be very careful. Defenders feel they are being watched.  I make sure I speak in terms of the international human rights legal framework, and don’t directly confront the government. I adopt a very diplomatic approach’.

The protection of human rights defenders remains a crucial component of securing the respect of rights in Burma. Ms Nu is clear that when human rights defenders are threatened, there is no protection of the population as a whole, and there can be no progress towards a truly democratic country or economic development. The UN has focused specific attention on Myanmar through the work of the Special Advisor of the Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. There are also several UN bodies working in the country.

This comes from an interview with ISHR on 10 November 2014.   

Source: Wai Wai Nu: Human rights defender from Burma | ISHR

Myanmar President to get peace prize today, despite ethnic cleansing charge

April 23, 2013

I have on earlier occasions tried to point out that there is a (big) difference between peace awards and human rights awards. This time it is Dan Murphy in the Christian Science Monitor, who points to another example. While it could be argued that  Myanmar President U Thein Sein deserves to be praised for having made bold steps to move his country away from repression and conflict, he human rights record in the past and [as Human Rights Watch argues in a recent report) in the present would not be considered by many as a likely candidate for a human rights award.

The International Crisis Group’s plan to give its “In Pursuit of Peace” award to Myanmar President U Thein Sein later today and a new Human Rights Watch report on ethnic cleansing against ethnic Rohingya form such striking contrast, that Murphy wonders if Human Rights Watch timed the report to coincide with the gala party that the International Crisis Group (ICG) is planning to host for President Thein Sein later today at the swanky Pierre Hotel in New York City, and with a scheduled lifting of all but arms sanctions against Myanmar (also known as Burma) from the European Union.

Myanmars ruler to get peace prize, despite ethnic cleansing charge – CSMonitor.com.