Week in Review: When failure to tackle impunity hinders peace

Week in Review: When failure to tackle impunity hinders peace©Flickr
Rohingya Refugee camp
2 min 16Approximate reading time

The exodus and massacre of Rohingyas, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar, marked the week in transitional justice. French President Emmanuel Macron said this was “genocide”, while the UN Secretary General called it ethnic cleansing. But according to Myanmar’s de facto leader, Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, this is a “huge iceberg of misinformation”.

Everything indicates, however, that some 400,000 Rohingyas, i.e. nearly half of this community living in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine or Arakan, have fled their country pursued by the army, and that hundreds have been shot dead or died as their houses were torched by the military.

Human Rights Watch on Friday published satellite photos showing the army’s scorched earth policy. According to this NGO, more than 200 Rohingya villages have been burned and destroyed.

This Muslim minority has been persecuted since the independence of Burma (now known as Myanmar), whose hero is Aung San Suu Kyi’s own father, a staunch Burmese nationalist. The Rohingyas, accused of having collaborated with the British colonial power, were stripped of their Burmese nationality in 1982. The Burmese, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, deny them even their name of Rohingyas, preferring to call them “Bengalis”, a pejorative name associating them with neighbouring Bangladesh.

The Nobel peace prize laureate has finally called for pacification between communities, but without criticizing the methods of the army, of which she is a hostage. And the UN Security Council has vigorously condemned Myanmar, but the suffering of the Rohingyas continues.

This situation is a serious stain on Myanmar’s transition to democracy and rule of law in a country still dominated by the army. As for Aung San Suu Kyi, millions of Internet users have, in a petition launched from Indonesia, demanded that she be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize.

“Impossible,” responds the Nobel Committee, saying the prize is given only on the committee’s assessment of the laureate’s achievements up to the award, and not afterwards.  

So for now, the Myanmar army can continue its massacres with impunity.

Impunity in CAR and Burundi

But impunity is a stumbling block to any real transition or reconciliation in any country. And so JusticeInfo’s editorial advisor Pierre Hazan reminds us that after a dozen peace plans, the Central African Republic is still at war because it has failed to tackle the roots of the problem.

“The Central African population made its voice heard in popular consultations in 2015 and continues to do so in spaces for dialogue, saying that there can be no real peace without justice,” writes Pierre Hazan. “Given a government in Bangui with no army or judicial system only holding on with the support of an increasingly divided international community, and the fragmentation and criminalization of armed groups looting the country’s gold and diamond resources, the population’s suffering continues.” 

The same scenario is being played out in Burundi, which is subject to a ferocious clampdown by its president, Pierre Nkurunziza. “When it is a matter of terror as a means of governance, of crimes against humanity, mass graves, rape and hate speech, the priority is no longer for an African solution because these are crimes that touch everyone’s humanity,” says Carine Kanez, spokesperson for a Burundian women’s NGO in an interview with JusticeInfo, in which she slammed the complicity of African Heads of State. “Pan-Africanism is a concept that is being increasingly manipulated with allegations of neo-colonialism against institutions like the ICC, and this hinders the possibility to ensure a peaceful transition. The international community needs to realize that this government is in total denial.”