Immigration

India Draws Flak from UN Human Rights Chief Over Rohingya Issue

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, slams India’s stand on Rohingya immigrants in the country.

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The United Nations Human Rights Council expressed displeasure over India’s stand regarding the deportation of the Rohingyas from the country. India has said that illegal immigrants like Myanmar’s Rohingyas pose security risks to the nation.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, made a statement saying that he “deplored current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country”. Hussein was speaking at the beginning of the 36th session of the Council in Geneva on Sept. 11.

“The Minister of State for Home Affairs has reportedly said that because India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention the country can dispense with international law on the matter, together with basic human compassion,” Hussein said, referring to the comments made by Indian Home Minister Kiren Rijiju last week.

“I want to tell the international organisations whether the Rohingyas are registered under the United Nations Human Rights Commission or not, they are illegal immigrants in India,” Rijiju said on Sept. 5, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw on a two-day state visit. During his visit Modi expressed concern over the “extremist violence” in Myanmar’s Rakhine province. He also stated that India and Myanmar shared “similar security interests in the region.”

While Modi’s comments were seen as a sympathetic stance by India towards the Myanmar government, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), at the prime minister’s instance, has been quietly interacting with Myanmar and Bangladesh to find ways to resolve the issue, DNA reported. India says it is taking a balanced approach, and is even offering assistance in the development of the Rakhine province.

Hussein added that “India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations, by virtue of customary law, India’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the obligations of due process and the universal principle of non-refoulement”.

About 40,000 Rohingyas are estimated to have settled in India after fleeing Myanmar, and are mostly living in Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Hyderabad.

The UN human rights chief also condemned the recent surge of incidents of cow vigilantism in the country, as well as the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru last week.

Members of the Rohingya Muslim community have been fleeing Myanmar since the country’s security forces in Rakhine began attacks on militants on August 25. Over 3 lakh Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh since the crisis began, according to the UN office in the country.

The situation has come in global focus due to the sheer number of human lives involved. The United States too issued a statement on Sept. 11 condemning the  violence against the community. “The massive displacement and victimization of people, including large numbers of the ethnic Rohingya community and other minorities, shows that Burmese security forces are not protecting civilians,” the statement released by the office of the White House press secretary said.

“We are alarmed by the allegations of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, burning of villages, massacres, and rape, by security forces and by civilians acting with these forces’ consent,” it added, calling on the Burmese security authorities to respect the rule of law, end the violence and displacement of civilians, and work with the elected government in implementing the Rakhine Commission’s recommendations.

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