Motion for a resolution on Myanmar: the situation of the Rohingya – B8-2017-0674

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its numerous resolutions on Myanmar/Burma and the Rohingya, in particular those of 16 September 2017, 15 December 2016, 7 July 2016 and 21 May 2015 on the mass graves discovered in Thailand,

–  having regard to its reports of 13 June 2017 on statelessness in South and South East Asia and of 27 June 2016 on implementation of the 2010 recommendations of Parliament on social and environmental standards, human rights and corporate responsibility,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the 1966 International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

–  having regard to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto,

–  having regard to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

–  having regard to the New York Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons,

–  having regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime,

–  having regard to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,

–  having regard to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security,

–  having regard to the work of the United Nations on this issue, and in particular to its report entitled ‘Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar’, adopted at the 32nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness 2014-2024 of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),

–  having regard to the report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission to Bangladesh of 3 February 2017 on ‘Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016’,

–  having regard to the European Union guidelines on human rights defenders, including on freedom of expression,

–  having regard to the statement by Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) at her press conference of 2 May 2017, alongside Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar/Burma,

–  having regard to the EU-Myanmar/Burma investment protection agreement currently being negotiated,

–  having regard to the recurrent reports by NGOs on the human rights situation in Myanmar/Burma, and in particular on the Rohingya,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on the EU strategy with Myanmar/Burma of 20 June 2016,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 16 October 2017,

–  having regard to displacement in Bangladesh and to the statement of 19 November 2017 by the VP/HR, Federica Mogherini,

–  having regard to the communiqué of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of 5 December 2017 at the Special Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the Rohingya of Myanmar/Burma constitute the world’s largest group of stateless persons; whereas the persecution, violence and discrimination against them continue to intensify; whereas access to Rakhine State remains largely restricted for NGOs, independent observers and journalists;

B.  whereas more than 600 000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh since 25 August 2017, in addition to the 200 000 to 300 000 Rohingya refugees who have arrived in the country in recent decades; whereas Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world; whereas the humanitarian crisis is beginning to be exacerbated by a health crisis and a risk of disease outbreaks; whereas cases of severe acute malnutrition have been discovered; whereas Unicef, the World Health Organisation and the Bangladeshi authorities last month launched a large-scale vaccination campaign, for which 900 000 doses of vaccine have been provided;

C.  whereas Bangladesh and Myanmar/Burma signed an agreement on 23 November 2017; whereas that agreement covers the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya displaced since October 2016; whereas the arrangements and the Joint Working Group will be established within two months; whereas camps should be opened in Myanmar/Burma to receive them; whereas the armed forces of Myanmar/Burma are responsible for torture, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and indiscriminate bombing of Rohingya villages;

D.  whereas the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for an international criminal investigation into the perpetrators of violence against the Rohingya, who may potentially be guilty of genocide; whereas his analysis of ‘widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal’ attacks against the Rohingya corroborate the reports of numerous international observers;

E.  whereas the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, visited refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on 12 November 2017 and announced her intention to recommend that the International Criminal Court (ICC) indict the Myanmar/Burmese authorities for numerous human rights violations equivalent to ‘acts of genocide against the Rohingya people’; whereas the Kutupalong camp alone, the largest in Cox’s Bazar, hosts more than 400 000 refugees;

F.  having regard to the fundraising conference for the Rohingya held in Geneva on 23 October 2017; whereas the European Union has made available EUR 30 million in aid to alleviate the humanitarian crisis; whereas international humanitarian aid will have to be renewed from February 2018;

G.  whereas the report of 24 August 2017 by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, commissioned by Aung San Suu Kyi, recommends that Myanmar/Burma lift restrictions on the movement and citizenship of the Rohingya to avoid fuelling extremism and to ensure peace and stability in the country;

H.  having regard to the repeated refusal to grant citizenship and related rights, such as the right to vote, to the one million Rohingya; whereas since the 1990s many Rohingya children have not received a birth certificate, and whereas this makes it difficult for them to enrol in state schools and obtain identity documents;

I.  whereas Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Myanmar/Burma is a signatory, enshrine the right to be registered immediately after birth and other obligations under applicable international instruments in this area, in particular in cases where the child would otherwise be stateless;

J.  whereas the army still wields disproportionate power over the country’s affairs; whereas certain articles of the Constitution enshrine impunity for military and civilian leaders;

K.  whereas religion is being exploited for violent purposes; whereas freedoms of thought, conscience and religion are not guaranteed; whereas incitement to hatred against religious minorities systematically goes unpunished; whereas xenophobia and Islamophobia in Burmese society have been fuelled in particular by a rise in Buddhist extremism stoking a nationalist policy which considers Buddhism to be the founding element, even an exclusive condition, of the nation;

L.  whereas communal tensions and hatred can, however, only be eliminated through legal measures; whereas their root causes also need to be tackled, including by deconstructing discriminatory stereotypes, encouraging greater tolerance and promoting access to social services for all, particularly in the area of education;

1.  Expresses its deep concern over the humanitarian situation in Myanmar/Burma and Bangladesh, and urges the Government of Myanmar/Burma to end the excessive use of force and the discrimination and violence which have devastated the Rohingya in Rakhine State; reiterates its call for full and unconditional humanitarian access without delay;

2.  Recalls that the Rohingya are an integral part of the Burmese population and that they must therefore be recognised as such by law;

3.  Notes the recent agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar/Burma; insists on the UNHCR being systematically involved in the work of the Joint Working Group; stresses that moving the Rohingya from one camp to another, on the other side of the border, cannot be a dignified or sustainable solution; supports the position of the High Commissioner for Refugees, who considers that, at present, the conditions are not in place to ‘enable safe and sustainable returns’; stresses, moreover, that such returns must be carried out on a voluntary basis; stresses the need to respect the principle of non-refoulement in all circumstances;

4.  Appreciates the constructive role played by Bangladesh under difficult circumstances; urges the authorities to provide more land to reduce overcrowding and improve the squalid conditions in the camps; urges the authorities to ease the bureaucratic restrictions they are imposing on humanitarian organisations, including in respect of work permits, visas and project approvals; encourages Bangladesh to officially recognise all Rohingya as refugees so that they can access basic protections and receive the support they need; stresses that freedom of movement is key to allowing access to basic services and education opportunities;

5.  Stresses the need to ensure the conditions for a dignified return with a view to implementing sustainable solutions in accordance with international principles, beginning with the rebuilding of villages destroyed by the Burmese armed forces; welcomes, in this regard, the decision by Myanmar/Burma to establish a ‘Union Enterprise Mechanism’ for humanitarian aid, resettlement and development in Rakhine State; stresses that this mechanism must go hand in hand with the full restoration of the rights of the Rohingya and the stopping and public condemnation of the use of excessive force by the Burmese authorities;

6.  Welcomes the fact that the UN Human Rights Council recently extended the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission; highlights the discrimination, expulsions, abuse, mass killings and incitement to hatred against the Rohingya by the Burmese state, which in legal terms are tantamount, to a ‘crime against humanity’; supports the request by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to consider recommending to the United Nations General Assembly the creation of a new, impartial and independent mechanism to complement the work of the Fact-Finding Mission on the latest wave of violence and abuse and to facilitate individual criminal investigations into those responsible; supports, also, the establishment of an OHCHR office in Myanmar/Burma with a full mandate;

7.  Draws attention to the discrimination against other minorities in Myanmar/Burma (Tamil, Hindu, Kaman, Chinese, etc.); considers that the 1982 citizenship law provides fertile ground for division by introducing the iniquitous concept of different citizenship ‘statuses’, as well as selective application, with multiple levels of bureaucracy and endemic corruption;

8.  Stresses once again the urgent need for the Burmese Government to fundamentally overhaul the country’s discriminatory laws; urges, in this regard, the Government of Myanmar/Burma to grant full citizenship to all Burmese minorities, in particular the Rohingya, by revising the 1982 nationality law in accordance with international standards; recommends that the Government ensure that all inhabitants of Myanmar/Burma are able to obtain identity documents whatever their ethnicity, ensure that all children are registered at birth, free of charge and without discrimination, and rapidly set up a system to register unregistered children, including Rohingya children, in accordance with United Nations recommendations;

9.  Urges the Burmese authorities to implement as soon as possible all the recommendations of the advisory commission headed by Kofi Annan, in particular on the issues of citizenship and equality between Burmese citizens in law and in practice;

10.  Urges Aung San Suu Kyi to protect her people, among whom the Rohingya are an integral part, and to condemn the abuses committed by the military; notes that in her capacity as State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi has committed to bringing to justice all the perpetrators of human rights violations and other criminal acts, in accordance with the rule of law, so as to avoid any impunity, and stated on 19 September 2017 that Myanmar/Burma does not fear international scrutiny; remains deeply concerned, nevertheless, by some of her statements and by the inadequacy of her intervention, which are unworthy of a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and Sakharov Prize;

11.  Denounces the growing influence of ultranationalist Buddhist movements, which fuel discriminatory sentiment and call for the adoption of discriminatory policies and laws; recalls that the 2008 Constitution proscribes the exploitation of religion for political purposes; calls on the authorities to take the necessary measures to tackle the spread of discrimination and prejudice against Muslims and members of national, ethnic and linguistic minorities in the country and, to stop the incitement to hatred, particularly against Muslims, by publicly condemning such acts, including in Rakhine State;

12.  Stresses the need to tackle the roots of the long-standing discrimination against the Rohingya; calls for access to basic economic and social rights to be enshrined, defended and guaranteed, including improved educational opportunities and access to education, including higher education for all, particularly in Rakhine State, for displaced young people and children living in camps;

13.  Calls on the Burmese Government to give priority to preventive measures to tackle discrimination, including through education and information campaigns, the training of judges and officials responsible for maintaining order, and cultural and social dialogue;

14.  Stresses that the success of the transition to democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar/Burma depends also on guaranteeing the supremacy of civil authority over military authority;

15.  Calls on the Burmese authorities to guarantee full respect for the right to freedoms of expression, assembly, association and the media, to end arbitrary arrests and detentions and to stop imposing disproportionate sentences on those who exercise these rights, including civil society actors, politicians and journalists trying to protect the rights of minorities, who are regularly subjected to intimidation and harassment;

16.  Calls on Myanmar/Burma to ratify five of the eight key agreements already signed, in particular the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

17.  Calls on all the countries in the region, in particular Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, to fulfil their international obligations as regards the rights of refugees, notably by signing the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Convention) and the 1967 Protocol thereto, and the New York Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, to open their borders to asylum-seekers, in particular the Rohingya, and to offer them at least temporary protection;

18.  Welcomes the growing attention and support of the European Union in addressing this crisis; recommends that EU support be given only to programmes which are strictly non-discriminatory and non-segregated; notes that the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Christos Stylianides, during a visit to Bangladesh last month quoted the UN Secretary-General in referring to ‘ethnic cleansing’;

19.  Welcomes the suspension of French and British military engagement with Myanmar/Burma as well as the suspension of EU invitations to the country’s Commander-in-Chief and other officials of the armed forces; stresses the importance of the EU arms embargo, which should also cover the supply of equipment, maintenance, assistance, training and cooperation with the army of Myanmar/Burma, and calls on the international community to do the same;

20.  Calls for the negotiations on an investment protection agreement between the European Union and Myanmar/Burma to remain suspended until a sustained improvement in the situation has been achieved; welcomes, in this connection, the indefinite postponement of the visit which a delegation of Parliament’s Committee on International Trade was to have made to Myanmar/Burma in September 2017; points out that access to the European Generalised System of Preferences is subject to respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, and that, in the event of widespread and systematic violations of basic human rights or labour rights standards, it may be withdrawn; urges the Council to consider this measure;

21.  Stresses, more generally, that land issues and the unlawful appropriation of land, especially by private companies, remain a major challenge for the future of Myanmar/Burma, for social justice and for the resettlement of the Rohingya;

22.  Recalls that its report on implementation of the 2010 recommendations of Parliament on social and environmental standards, human rights and corporate responsibility found that current clauses in trade agreements had had ‘a limited impact on the fulfilment of HR obligations and commitments’, and called on the Commission and the Council, inter alia, ‘to consider the inclusion of a committee for human rights in all EU trade agreements in order to ensure serious and systematic follow-up on human rights issues in relation to the agreement’;

23.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Government of Myanmar/Burma, the ASEAN Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the General Assembly of the United Nations.