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World rights chief calls to investigate killing of veteran Rohingya activist

UN Photo/Caroline Gluck

UNITED NATIONS -- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet called for a prompt, thorough, and effective investigation into the killing of a veteran Rohingya refugee activist in a refugee camp in Bangladesh.

UN strongly condemned the killing of Rohingya refugee leader Mohib Ullah in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, UN officials said. World body urged the Bangladesh authorities to undertake an investigation and to hold those responsible to account.

Ms. Bachelet said that “We urge continued strong international support for the protection and support to the Rohingya communities anywhere, including in Bangladesh.” She stressed that the UN continues to call for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and internally displaced persons and will continue to firmly provide its support in this endeavor.

World refugee agency also expressed its deep shock and sadness at the killing of Mr. Ullah.

UNHCR said in a statement issued that Mohib Ullah, chair of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights was shot dead on Wednesday by unknown assailants in the Kutupalong /Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, located south of Bangladesh.

It noted that the camp was established in August 2017 and has over 750,000 Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority group from neighboring Myanmar, who fled mass killings, rapes and persecution by the army and security forces.

Ms. Bachelet said that “It is heartbreaking that a person who spent his life fighting to ensure that the violations committed against the Rohingya people were known world-wide has been murdered in this way.”

She described Mr. Ullah as “an exceptional human rights defender, who despite the risks that his work entailed, nevertheless continued defending the rights of his people.”

UN Human rights agency said that for years, Mr. Ullah methodically collected information about violations against the Rohingya in their home state of Rakhine, in northwestern Myanmar, and sought to galvanize international action.

Mr. Ullah travelled to Geneva in March 2019 to address the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in person, explained how the Rohingya had suffered discrimination for decades, such as being deprived of their basic rights, including nationality, land, health and education.

“Imagine if you have no identity, no ethnicity, no country. Nobody wants you. How would you feel? This is how we feel today as Rohingya,” he told the Council at the time. “We are citizens of Myanmar, we are Rohingya.”

Ms. Bachelet said Mr. Ullah’s words “were very powerful and highlighted the terrible situation of the Rohingya and today, four years later, they echo as a reminder that Rohingya are still waiting for justice and still waiting to return home.”

She added that his death highlights the precarious situation of the Rohingya in both countries.

She emphasized “we need to do much more to help this persecuted community, both in Bangladesh and in Myanmar.”

According to the UN human rights office, insecurity has been increasing alarmingly in the Kutupalong Cox’s Bazar camp, with growing criminality, rising tensions between different groups, as well as heavy handed security crackdowns during anti-drug operations.

OHCHR said that anti-Rohingya sentiment has also been increasing within Bangladeshi communities.

Ms. Bachelet said that “Whoever was responsible for his murder, Mohib Ullah’s death is a clear example of the insecurity in the camp, and the apparent attempts to silence moderate civil society voices.”

She added that “A prompt, thorough, and independent investigation should be conducted not only to identify and apprehend his killers, and expose their motives, but also to define what measures are needed to better protect vulnerable civil society leaders, while avoiding further securitistion in the camps.”

She is fully comprehends the huge challenges Bangladesh has faced in hosting Rohingya refugees, and the need for greater international support. Ms. Bachelet stressed that their basic rights must be upheld.

The situation of some 600,000 Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine State remains dire, with many still confined in camps, and reports of alleged violations including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, and high levels of extortion, UNHCR stated.

Mohib Ullah’s killing should be a clarion call to the international community to redouble its pressure on Myanmar to recognize the Rohingya and accept their return, and to pursue accountability for the terrible crimes committed against them,” Ms. Bachelet concluded.

By Anjali Sharma



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