This piece was authored by Julia Wilber.
As we mark the first anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar, it is clear that too little has been done to support, protect, and provide for this marginalized community. The United Nations Secretary General has even gone so far as to say that the world has “failed” the Rohingya. But on this anniversary, the world has another chance. The international community can take three concrete steps to address the impunity at the root of the Rohingya crisis.
First, the UN Security Council should refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation. Second, the United Nations should establish an investigative body to collect and document evidence of human rights violations. Third, the United States and other key governments should impose additional targeted sanctions on responsible parties. Together, these steps could provide some measure of hope to the Rohingya and would represent a strong, principled stand against future atrocities.
The Need for Accountability
The horrors inflicted upon the Rohingya are shocking. For decades, Myanmar’s military has operated with impunity. Now, accountability is urgently needed to provide a sense of justice to the Rohingya, to act as a deterrent against further abuses of the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in the country, and to help stabilize the region.
To begin with, accountability would provide a necessary sense of justice for the Rohingya. Mechanisms for accountability do not address immediate survival needs like adequate food, shelter, and sanitation. However, holding abusers accountable is an essential part of the healing process. It is also an essential condition for the voluntary, safe, and dignified repatriation of the Rohingya from refugee camps in Bangladesh. As highlighted by the UN Secretary General on a visit with Rohingya refugees, when asked what they would need to return home, many Rohingya respond: “justice.”