United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten has urged the Human Rights Council to do everything in its power to seek a swift end to the reported atrocities against the persecuted Rohingya minority.
At the special session on the human rights situation of the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State in Myanmar in Geneva on Tuesday, she also called for bringing the alleged perpetrators of sexual and other violence to justice and ensuring a safe and dignified future for the survivors.
Pramila Patten welcomed progress towards a resolution of this Council, and trusts that all member states will back that resolution with sustained political resolve and resources equal to the scale of the challenge.
“I must emphasise that UN agencies and partners are facing a dramatic funding shortfall of around 10 million US Dollars to deliver essential gender-based violence services and programmes in the immediate-term. This funding can save lives and help survivors heal,” she said.
The UN special representative welcomed the ongoing efforts of the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to find a bilateral solution that would enable the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of the displaced Rohingya community, according to copy of her speech.
“It is imperative that their basic civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights must first be guaranteed.”
It is important that they view the current crisis in its broader historical and political perspective, Pramila said.
She said the Rohingya community has been trapped for many decades in a vicious cycle of violence, impunity, and forced displacement.
“There’s a serious risk of this cycle repeating, if the underlying conditions don’t change. Indeed, there’ve been successive waves of displacement since the 1970s – I met with a group of women who have been living in camps in Cox’s Bazar for 25 years; some had been displaced multiple times,” Pramila mentioned.
She said Bangladesh has rightly called the recent arrangement, signed on November 23, a “first step”.
Myanmar and Bangladesh have clear obligations under international law not to return individuals to a situation in which they are at risk of persecution, torture or other serious violations of human rights, including sexual violence, she said.
“I urge the international community to support both the governments in a constructive manner to reach a comprehensive agreement that upholds international standards, and sets out all the necessary measures to ensure that returns are truly voluntary decisions based on informed consent, which take place in safe and dignified conditions that pave the way for lasting solutions,” Pramila said.
This will not be possible without concerted efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes, including sexual violence offenses, she said.
“To this end, an impartial, independent mechanism to support investigation and prosecution would be an important step.”
The United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement on Myanmar, adopted on November 6, she said, underscores the importance of preventing and responding to sexual violence, and explicitly calls on the Government of Myanmar to work with my Office.
In October, she had requested to go to Myanmar to meet the authorities concerned, and she is encouraged by a call she received last week from the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations in New York, responding positively to this request.
“I look forward to this visit and constructive engagement with the government of Myanmar. I’m committed to extending the full support of my office, which could include technical support in the area of law reform and capacity-building of the national armed and security forces to foster compliance with international laws and standards, including zero tolerance for crimes of sexual violence,” she said.
“Such support can be provided through my Team of Experts on the Rule of Law, which helps to build the capacity of justice and security sector institutions to address sexual violence crimes,” Pramila said.
In addition, she said, she stands ready to mobilise for the benefit of the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh the interagency network that she chairs known as UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, which supports efforts to deliver a coordinated, multisectoral response for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, including health and psychosocial support services.
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution on Myanmar which was passed by 33 votes. Nine countries refrained from giving vote while three countries –China, Burundi and the Philippines – voted against the resolution.