De Lima, other PH lawmakers join call to refer Myanmar humanitarian crisis to ICC

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has joined the call for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to refer immediately the humanitarian crisis affecting Rohingya people in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In a joint statement released by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) in which De Lima is one of the signatories, 132 lawmakers in Southeast Asia called for a global action to make Myanmar leaders responsible for the oppression of Rohingya minority be brought to justice.

“We, the undersigned parliamentarians, are writing to express our grave concerns over the ongoing impunity for perpetrators involved in the atrocities committed against hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar since 25 August 2017,” they wrote.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the crimes perpetrated in Rakhine State against the Rohingya constitute genocide and crimes against humanity,” they added.

The joint statement was released to mark the first anniversary last August 25 which was the start of the violent military campaign against the Rohingya in Rahkine state.

According to the signatories, the violent military drive vs Rohingyas have resulted in “gross human rights violations, including widespread killings, arbitrary arrests, burnings of entire villages, and sexual violence.”

Aside from De Lima, other signatories from the Philippines include Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Reps. Antonio Tinio, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Edcel Lagman, Emmi De Jesus, Kaka Bag-ao, Raul Daza, Teddy Baguilat Jr., and Tom Villarin.

The 132 parliamentarians who signed the statement came from five countries namely, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste and Singapore.

Since the launch of the military campaign, 700,000 people have fled over the border to Bangladesh and 25,000 people have been killed, with villages razed to the ground and women sexually assaulted and raped.

The lawmakers noted that since Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, what can trigger the ICC’s investigation of the atrocities in the country would be a referral from the UNSC to the ICC. They have high hopes that the UNSC will act accordingly.

The parliamentarians also called on their respective governments and ASEAN itself to expedite efforts in pressing the government and military in Myanmar to end all forms of human rights violations against Rohingya.

“This must include abolishing all discriminatory policies and practices in order to address the root causes of the crisis. It is imperative that they also urge the Myanmar government to grant immediate and unconditional access into Rakhine State, particularly for humanitarian aid groups, independent observers, and local and international media,” they said.

In November 2017, De Lima expressed opposition to the Philippine government’s decision not to support the UN General Assembly committee draft resolution against Myanmar’s military campaign on Rohingya Muslims.

A month after, de Lima has urged then Senate President Koko Pimentel to support the draft resolution submitted to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) expressing serious concerns over the humanitarian crisis affecting Rohingya people in Myanmar in a letter dated Dec. 11.

As then DOJ secretary in May 2015, De Lima also proposed that the Philippines, along with fellow member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian countries, send rescue ships to help the Rohingya Muslims or “boat people” still stranded in the seas, and save their lives.

Like Myanmar, Philippines is also hounded by human rights issues which escalated when Duterte, who promotes violence as crime prevention, launched last year his all-out war on drugs that led to the killings of more than 23,000 people to date.

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