Press Release: For Immediate Release

New York, 24 August 2018: One year ago, on 25 August, the world witnessed a series of brutal attacks against the Rohingya community in Rakhine state, Myanmar, which triggered the mass exodus of almost 890,000 civilians to neighboring Bangladesh in search of safety.

First-hand accounts from members of the Rohingya community confirm a pattern of widespread human rights violations, including rape, gang-rape, and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls, murder, torture, looting and the burning of homes and villages. Thousands are believed to have been killed and forcibly displaced. The conditions in Rakhine state remain precarious and the future of the Rohingya population is bleak.

“On two occasions, I visited the camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, which now have become the world’s largest refugee camps. I spoke with members of the Rohingya community who shared their horror stories of escaping persecution by the Tatmadaw, and I promised them that I would bring their voices to the world”, Special Representative Patten says. “During my visits, almost every woman and girl I spoke with described patterns of rape, gang-rape, forced nudity and abduction for the purpose of sexual slavery during military campaigns of slaughter, looting and the razing of villages to the ground”, Special Representative Patten recalls.

Rape and other forms of conflict-related sexual violence were an integral part of the attack on the Rohingya community and were part of the pattern of persecution and collective punishment, which pushed an unprecedented number of Rohingya civilians out of Myanmar.

As set out in the latest annual Report of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, in 2017 alone, humanitarians have provided services in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to some 2,700 survivors of sexual violence let alone that many other survivors chose not to report these incidents due to fear, shame and stigma. UN agencies on the ground, report an average of 60 births per day in the camps, many of which may have resulted from rape.

Currently, women and children comprise 80 per cent of the camp population. “Rohingya children have been deprived of formal education for a year now and are unable to attend schools in Bangladesh. Education, as well as economic livelihood and self-reliance opportunities, are fundamental rights and a safeguard against poverty, marginalization, trafficking and sexual exploitation”, Special Representative Patten states.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Government of Myanmar in June 2018 is a critical first step aimed at creating conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. The international community must not forget that the Rohingya crisis is not only a humanitarian emergency, but is also closely tied to issues of identity, security and development. Long-term reconciliation processes will only be possible if underlying issues, such as discrimination, land dispossession, and the denial of citizenship rights and status, are resolved.

Repeated calls for action and demands for justice are falling on deaf ears and the world is becoming immune to the plight of the Rohingya. The Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict stands ready to support the Government of Myanmar to undertake efforts to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, and urges the national authorities to agree upon a Joint Communiqué with the Office. The Office of the Special Representative has also proposed partnering with the Government of Bangladesh, through a Framework of Cooperation, to help mitigate and address the risks of sexual violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation facing Rohingya women and children in the camps.

The Government of Bangladesh demonstrated a profound spirit of humanity in opening their borders to the persecuted Rohingya community. However, national institutions and communities in the settlement areas are stretched to the limits of their capacity to provide basics needs. The international community must continue to support the Government of Bangladesh in meeting the humanitarian needs of all Rohingya refugees as well as in applying concerted and persistent pressure on the Government of Myanmar to meet all conditions necessary for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingya refugees.

Refugee return cannot be separated from the question of impunity for the grave international crimes committed. “Perpetrators of sexual violence crimes must be held accountable and all measures should be put in place to facilitate the survivors’ access to justice and redress”, concludes Special Representative Patten.

 

For media inquiries, please contact:

Ms. Géraldine Boezio, Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Tel: +1 917 367 3306   Email: geraldine.boezio@un.org