The report back is based on the experiences of an all-women legal team that traveled to Bangladesh in December of 2017. The team was headed by advocate Shabnam Mayet from Johannesburg, the co-founder of campaign group Protect the Rohingya and consisted of advocate Shaida Mahomed of Johannesburg and attorney Tasneem Fredericks of Port Elizabeth. They were joined in Cox’s Bazar by Scottish journalist Yvonne Ridley and the team was assisted by Bangladeshi lawyer and academic activist, Rezaur Rahman Lenin.
The lawyers listened for 3 days as both male and female victims from Showap Parag (Choot Pyin), Tola Toli (Min Gyi Ywa) ,Arng Darng (Inn Din) and other villages recounted their narratives of the events. They shared the horrific accounts of gang rape, arson attacks on villages, slaughter of family members and loss of their land and belongings. Their testimonies confirmed the systematic and methodical manner in which the Myanmar military perpetrated the most brutal atrocities against a civilian population. It became apparent that in some instances Rakhine Buddhists assisted the military and even stabbed people who were still alive after they had been shot. At times they were identified by the victims as residents of neighbouring villages.
Ridley said: “I was deeply humbled by the dignity of these people and horrified by what they told me. This is a giant stain on humanity in the 21st century.”
Since 25 August 2017 almost 700 000 Rohingya fled the atrocities being perpetrated against them by the Myanmar military. They are now being housed in camps in neighbouring Bangladesh under some of the worst possible conditions. Currently discussions of repatriation are underway.
Mahomed added: “This is a serious indictment on the leaders of this world and their governments. All the Rohingya people ask for is their basic sense of belonging.”
The aim of the project was to set in motion a global campaign to bring the Myanmar military and officials to justice for ethnic cleansing and genocide. The group is hopeful that this report back which documents the atrocities will spur on legal teams to utilise the Rome Statute or universal jurisdiction to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes in their national jurisdictions .
Lawfare is just one more tool that can be utilised in the fight against oppression and injustice.
For this project, the team partnered with the International Relief Organisation based in Germany and the project was funded in part by the Media Review Network and Salamedia both based in South Africa.
Protect the Rohingya is an awareness group which began in July 2012 with the aim of creating awareness on the plight of the Rohingya. They have previously published an international report in 2014, entitled ‘Hear Our Screams’.
Link for Report back video: https://youtu.be/OgSUpkoO-BQ
For more information/ interviews contact:
Yvonne Ridley (Scotland) – email@example.com
Shabnam Mayet (South Africa) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tasneem Fredericks – (South Africa) email@example.com
Shaida Mahomed (South Africa) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Rezaur Rehman Lenin ( Bangladesh) – Rezalawreview@gmail.com