The Geneva Centre*
10 November 2017, GENEVA – The Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (hereinafter “The Geneva Centre”) Ambassador Idriss Jazairy emphasized – during a lecture on 10 November at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies – that the denial of equal citizenship rights to the Rohingya population is breeding radicalization and inter-communal violence in Myanmar.
Although Myanmar’s recent political reforms and “opening to the world” have brought welcome change and transformation to the country, the Muslim population in the State of Rakhine continues to be denied access to basic human rights as the “1982 nationality code was not changed” stated Ambassador Jazairy.
The 2008 Constitution is also impeding the realization of full citizenship rights for the Rohingyas. In this context, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director said:
“The 2008 Constitution distinguishes between citizens and associated citizens with benefit of jus soli only for 3rd generation immigrants. It is reminiscent of Ancient Greece. In those days citizens co-habited with other natives of inferior status.
“Such provisions are also an expression of the refusal of diversity which prevails under different pretexts in modern times. This refusal seldom extends however, as it does in Myanmar, to denial of citizenship, in other words, to denial of the right to have rights.”
In his deliberation at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Ambassador Jazairy also noted that promises to end the outflow of Rohingya refugees heading towards neighbouring Bangladesh have not been met, despite Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pledge to redress the situation by 5 September 2017 and to provide unfettered access to the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.
Even though the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar has reached an unprecedented level since the outbreak of hostilities in 2012, Ambassador Jazairy denounced a “total absence of foresight from the international community on the implications of not attending to a festering crisis.” “It should have been expected” – he noted – “that inaction on its part would foster radicalization which is what happened.”
He further observed that Resolution 29/21 of 22 July 2015 was the only resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council dealing specifically with the gross human rights violations inflicted on the Rohingya Muslims. Ambassador Jazairy said: “All other resolutions, whether from the General Assembly or from the Council limit themselves to mentioning in general terms ‘The situation of human rights in Myanmar.’”
Against this background, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director echoed the UN Secretary General’s statement on 28 September 2017 to the UN Security Council that the time had come for action. He appealed to the Human Rights Council to address more specifically the situation of the Rohingya Muslims in its forthcoming sessions. Ambassador Jazairy likewise called upon the government of Myanmar to permit UN’s Myanmar Fact-Finding mission to visit the Rakhine State in line with the provisions set forth in UN Human Rights Council Resolution 34/22 of 24 March 2017.
The forthcoming holding of a Special Session on the Rohingyas in Myanmar at the UN Human Rights Council – following an appeal made by the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director on 11 and 12 October to all member States of the UN Human Rights Council – is a step in the right direction to address the plight of the Rohingya population in Myanmar.
“The Geneva Centre addressed an appeal to all member States of the Human Rights Council on 11 and 12 October 2017 to convene a Special Session on the situation of the Rakhine Muslims urgently. This appeal has been heard and the date of 23 November was put forward for this important meeting,” emphasized Ambassador Jazairy.
The Geneva Centre’s Executive Director also recommended that the title of the forthcoming Special Session be “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” which
would correspond to the title of Resolution 29/21 adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 22 July 2015.
He concluded his intervention stating that: “The crisis situation of the Rohingyas in Myanmar is a reminder that diversity in modern times cannot be stamped out. Like a pressure cooker on a hot plate, it needs a safety valve or it explodes. This is also a reminder that ethnic cleansing under any form is not an alternative to, but is also a harbinger of violence.” ENDS
*About the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Social Dialogue:
The Geneva Centre, an organization with special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, is a think tank dedicated to the promotion of human rights through cross-cultural, political, religious and civilizational dialogue between the Global North and Global South, and through training of the upcoming generations of stakeholders in the Arab region. The Centre works towards a value-driven human rights system, steering clear of politicization and building bridges between different narratives thereon of the Global North and of the Global South. Its aim is to act as a platform for dialogue between a variety of stakeholders involved in the promotion and protection of human rights. For more information, please visit http://www.gchragd.org/
Nations without Nationality – An ‘Unseen’ Stark Reality
By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 10 2017 (IPS) – Here’s another ‘unseen’ stark reality—that of millions of people around the world who are deprived of their identity, living without nationality. Their total number is by definition unknown and their only ‘sin” is that they belong to an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority in the country where they have often lived for generations.
These millions of human beings are victims of continued discrimination, exclusion and persecution, states a UN refugee agency’s new report, calling for “immediate action” to secure equal nationality rights for all.
“Stateless people are just seeking the same basic rights that all citizens enjoy. But stateless minorities, like the Rohingya, often suffer from entrenched discrimination and a systematic denial of their rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on the launch of the report, This Is Our Home: Stateless minorities and their search for citizenship on the beginning of November.
This report explains the circumstances that have led to them not being recognised as citizens, drawing on discussions with four stateless or formerly stateless minority groups. The findings in this report underscore the critical need for minorities to enjoy the right to nationality.
“Imagine being told you don’t belong because of the language you speak, the faith you follow, the customs you practice or the colour of your skin. This is the stark reality for many of the world’s stateless. Discrimination, which can be the root cause of their lack of nationality, pervades their everyday lives – often with crippling effects,” says Grandi.
The report notes that more than 75 per cent of the world’s known stateless populations belong to minority groups. “Left unaddressed, their protracted marginalisation can build resentment, increase fear and, in the most extreme cases, lead to instability, insecurity and displacement.”
Even Before the Ongoing Rohingya Crisis
Based on research prior to late August when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya – the world’s “biggest stateless minority” – began fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh, the report reminds that their situation is nonetheless illustrative of the problems that years of discrimination, protracted exclusion and their impact on citizenship status can lead to.
“In recent years, important steps have been taken to address statelessness worldwide. However new challenges, like growing forced displacement and arbitrary deprivation of nationality, threaten this progress. States must act now and they must act decisively to end statelessness,” Grandi stressed.
The report shows that, for many minority groups, the cause of statelessness is difference itself: their histories, their looks, their language, and their faith.
“At the same time, statelessness often exacerbates the exclusion that minority groups face, profoundly affecting all aspects of their life – from freedom of movement to development opportunities, and from access to services to the right to vote.”
What Statelessness Is All About
According to the UN, statelessness can exacerbate the exclusion that minorities already face, further limiting their access to education, health care, legal employment, freedom of movement, development opportunities and the right to vote.
“It creates a chasm between affected groups and the wider community, deepening their sense of being outsiders: of never belonging.”
In May and June 2017, UNHCR spoke with more than 120 individuals who belong to stateless or formerly stateless minority groups in three countries: the Karana of Madagascar, Roma and other ethnic minorities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Pemba and Makonde of Kenya. These are the key findings of UNHCR’s consultations:
Discrimination, Lack of Documentation
Discrimination and exclusion of ethnic, religious or linguistic minority groups often lies at the heart of their statelessness, adds UNHCR. At the same time, their statelessness can lead to further discrimination, both in in practice and in law: at least 20 countries maintain nationality laws in which nationality can be denied or deprived in a discriminatory manner.
“Discrimination against the stateless minorities consulted manifests itself most clearly in their attempts to access documentation needed to prove their nationality or their entitlement to nationality, such as a national ID card or a birth certificate.”
Lack of such documentary proof can result in a vicious circle, where authorities refuse to recognize an otherwise valid claim to nationality.
The UN body explains that because of their statelessness and lack of documentation, the groups consulted are typically excluded from accessing legal or sustainable employment, or obtaining the kinds of loans or licenses that would allow them to make a decent living. This marginalisation can make it difficult for stateless minorities to escape an on-going cycle of poverty.
Examples among other testimonies included: “The biggest problem is the poverty caused by my statelessness. A stateless person cannot own property. I feel belittled and disgraced by the situation that I am in,” notes Shaame Hamisi, 55 from the stateless Pemba community in Kenya.
All the groups consulted spoke of their fear for their physical safety and security on account of being stateless. Being criminalized for a situation that they are unable to remedy has left psychological scars and a sense of vulnerability among many.
“They [police] know what we do, where we go. They ask for our IDs, when we say we don’t have any, we are arrested and beaten,” says Ajnur Demir, 26, from the Roma community from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
On this, a 3 November 2015 UN report – I am Here, I Belong: The Urgent Need to End Childhood Statelessness— had already warned in a report that stateless children across the world share the same feelings of discrimination, frustration and despair.
According to that report, urgent action is needed before statelessness “sets in stone” problems haunting their childhood.
“In the short time that children get to be children, statelessness can set in stone grave problems that will haunt them throughout their childhoods and sentence them to a life of discrimination, frustration and despair,” said the by then the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres and now UN Secretary General, adding that no child should be stateless.
“Stateless young people are often denied the opportunity to receive school qualifications, go to university and find a decent job. They face discrimination and harassment by authorities and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Their lack of nationality often sentences them and their families and communities to remain impoverished and marginalised for generations.”
What future for them… and for humankind?.
• Facilitate the naturalisation or confirmation of nationality for stateless minority groups resident on the territory provided that they were born or have resided there before a particular date, or have parents or grandparents who meet these criteria.
• Allow children to gain the nationality of the country in which they were born if they would otherwise be stateless.
• Eliminate laws and practices that deny or deprive persons of nationality on the basis of discriminatory grounds such as race, ethnicity, religion, or linguistic minority status.
• Ensure universal birth registration to prevent statelessness.
• Eliminate procedural and practical obstacles to the issuance of nationality documentation to those entitled to it under law.