World to hear Rohingya’s testimonies
THE Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal’s (PPT) concluding session on Myanmar, which will convene at the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, from Sept 18 to 22, has assumed extraordinary significance in light of the United Nations Security Council’s unanimous call to the Myanmar government to end its military campaign against the Rohingya on Sept 13.
The nature of this military campaign and the horrendous consequences emanating from it will be vividly described in the testimonies of its victims at the tribunal. It is not just the severely persecuted Rohingya Muslims who will speak. The Christian Kachin and Buddhist Ta’ang minorities will also be presenting serious allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide.
An important dimension to the persecution of the Rohingya — how it has impacted Bangladesh and its people — will be highlighted through the participation of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh during the proceedings.
Renowned expert witnesses will also testify. Among them is Greg Stanton, research professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at the George Mason University, the United States. He is regarded internationally as one of the most authoritative voices on the crime of genocide.
The prosecution will be led by Doreen Chen of Australia, a human rights lawyer who is the cofounder and director of Destination Justice, through which she supports persecuted human rights defenders, particularly in Southeast Asia.
PPT had also invited Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Vice-President Myint Swe and Armed Forces Commanderin-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to appear before the tribunal or to make a representation. They did not reply. Kofi Annan, the chair of Rakhine Commission, did respond to PPT’s invitation. He is not able to attend.
The arguments of the prosecution, the views of the expert witnesses and the testimonies of the victims will be analysed by a panel of judges with exemplary credentials. They come from different countries and backgrounds.
They are Daniel Feierstein (Argentina), a researcher at CONICET (National Council for Scientific and Technical Research); Zulaiha Ismail (Malaysia), a trustee of the Perdana Global Peace Foundation; Helen Jarvis (Cambodia-Australia) Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal vice-president; Gill H. Boehringer (Australia), former lead of Law School, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia; Nursyahbani Katjasungkana (Indonesia), human rights lawyer; Chowdhury R. Abrar (Bangladesh), teaches International Relations and directs the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh; Shadi Sadr (Iran), human rights lawyer; and Nello Rossi (Italy), solicitor-general at the Supreme Court of Cassation, Italy.
The findings of the judges will be communicated to UN human rights bodies, including its Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Office of the Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide in New York will also receive the findings. Civil society groups all over the world would also be brought into the picture. The media has a critical role to play in disseminating the findings of the tribunal.
One hopes that the media will emphasise the two principle goals of the tribunal.
ONE, exposing with incontrovertible evidence the true situation in Myanmar and using that as a basis for spreading public awareness; and,
TWO, strengthening international law and international institutions in our endeavour to ensure that justice is done to the Rohingya, Kachin and other minorities in Myanmar.
A Rohingya woman and a child near the Bangladesh border.