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British MPs want Myanmar govt. referred to ICC

In this file photo taken on November 2, 2017, Rohingya Muslim refugees who were stranded after leaving Myanmar walk towards the Balukhali refugee camp after crossing the border in Bangladesh's Ukhia district. (Photo by AFP)

A British parliamentary committee says the government must support efforts to refer Myanmar’s government to the international criminal court over evidence of state-sanctioned "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

The lawmakers on the international development select committee said that the UK should still seek to gather “support for the UN security council to refer Burma to the international criminal court and to apply targeted financial sanctions at all identifiable key figures”.

The lawmakers welcome a move by the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to seek a ruling whether she can investigate the deportation of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh, the committee added.

The committee has accused Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi of a “longstanding approach of denying human rights abuses have taken place and seeking to obstruct moves towards justice and accountability [and] failing to counter hate speech through positive speech and messages of tolerance and restraint”.

The developments come as there has been a tension within the UK’s Foreign Office over the degree to which Britain should give Suu Kyi. But the British parliamentary committee says the former Nobel prize winner has become part of the problem.

Fire rages through shelters in the Baw Du Ba camp near Sittwe, in Rakhine state, Myanmar, May 3, 2016. (File photo)

The committee also called for a complete review of UK aid to Myanmar.

The MPs point out that, since the last British aid program was prepared, “there has been ethnic cleansing, the breaking of ceasefires, a closing of civil society space, including restrictions on media freedoms and the persecution of journalists, and a reduction in religious freedom”.

Following this bleak assessment, the committee said the UK’s government’s language and actions towards Myanmar needed to change dramatically, including by imposing targeted sanctions.

The committee says, “[Myanmar] must realize that there is a bill to pay for the actions of its army and the inaction its government and society. The dramatic changes to the situation in Burma must drive dramatic change in UK policy.”

The committee’s chair, Stephen Twigg, said, “British taxpayers must be assured that their money is not being used to subsidize a government accused of crimes against humanity. If there is nothing to report, we recommend suspending these programmes.”

The lawmakers said that they are now deeply concerned by the threat to the Rohingya’s fraught and fragile foothold in Bangladesh as the monsoon season approaches.

In early May, human rights groups urged the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, including the military’s atrocities against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims in the northwestern state of Rakhine.

The hundreds of thousands who have fled to Bangladesh have brought with them horrifying accounts of massacre, gang rape, and arson by Myanmar’s military forces and Buddhist mobs.

The UN has described the violence against the Rohingya as “ethnic cleansing” and possibly “genocide.”

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