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Rohingya Massacres: U.S. State Department Posts Report as UN Agency Formed To Assist ICC

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Very quietly, without fanfare, in a story that went by almost unnoticed, the U.S. State Department website posted a report this week on the Rohingya massacres and atrocities.  Based on a survey, for which it contracted a Washington-based law firm (PLPG — Public International Law and Policy Group) to conduct the interviews, the report relied on 15,000 pages of supporting evidence.  It documented a planned, organized effort to terrorize and drive out the Rohingya community.  The firm, too, has posted data and legal findings on its own website.

PILPG’s investigators conducted 1024 interviews with Rohingya survivors in Eastern Bangladesh refugee camps and settlement areas.  They drafted an initial overview for the State Department followed by detailed documentation in the form of a database with more than “13,000 coded instances of grave human rights violations.”  A second report titled, “Factual Findings and Legal Analysis Report” is expected to be issued sometime next month (October 2018).

The State Department report notes specifically that any hearsay evidence was not recorded; the interviewees were eyewitnesses to the horrors.  Eighty-two percent actually saw the killings and a similar number observed the destruction and burning of huts and villages.  There are numerous aerial views of the destruction, patches of lifeless brown in a lush, green landscape.  Fifty-one percent witnessed sexual violence of which 45 percent constituted rapes — 18 percent were gang rapes.

The military were by far the worst perpetrators.  Others involved were police or armed civilians.  The  methods employed in some cases were designed to cause “mass casualties … locking people in houses to burn them, fencing off entire villages before shooting into the crowd, or sinking boats full of hundreds of fleeing Rohingya” (p. 2).

Gang rapes were common.  In one case, they abducted some 80 women to rape.  In another, a mother reported that “during a rape of roughly 100 women, her daughter was raped, then mutilated and killed … .”   Other mutilations included “cutting babies out of their pregnant mothers’ bellies … .”  Soldiers are reported to have “cut off the breasts of women they raped … mutilated genitals or other parts of their bodies” (p. 17).

Systematic, organized atrocities perpetrated by a de facto authority are considered crimes against humanity.  These include massacres, summary executions, rapes, religious persecution and the terrorism experienced by the Rohingya.  Article 7 of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court is reproduced under the UN’s  definition of crimes against humanity.  Any one of the ten actions described are sufficient for guilt and in Myanmar the authorities perpetrated at least eight.

The State Department report carefully avoids calling the acts, ‘crimes against humanity,’ a term that could have legal implications and obligate it to “stronger punitive measures.”  However, the UN Human Rights Council continues to forge ahead and on September 27 it set up an agency to collect and consolidate evidence to facilitate any future prosecutions by the ICC.

The UN’s 440-page report released the previous week on September 18, documented in detail the horrific damning evidence and called for the Myanmar military and six senior generals including the commander-in-chief to be referred to the ICC.  The latter has commenced its own preliminary investigation.  Let’s hope the mercurial Mr. Trump wakes up peevish on the wrong side of the bed one morning soon.  Even that might not be enough for the generals to face justice as ICC investigations require cooperation by the Myanmar government.

Author’s Note:  This article first appeared on Counterpunch.org

Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

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International Law

Coronavirus force majeure and new world order

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The current pandemic has given rise to a variety of forecasts and  judgements on a wide range of issues that are directly or indirectly related to the future world order. These predictions can be divided into two main groups. The first group incorporates factors of uncertainty in global politics which will likely affect it for a fairly long time. That’s why the  forecasts of a new world order which are short of conceptual categoriality are provided with a reservation  that they are purely preliminary: their coming into effect will depend on a combination of many, not yet visible, variables.

The second group includes prognostic estimates which present a more or less completed picture of the new world order but, in our opinion, too prematurely.  In some cases, the suggested visions of the future world order, its “new normality” or “new abnormality”, are based on individual concepts and assumptions. What needs emphasizing is that a linear projection of dramatic and turbulent changes on the present-day geopolitical landscape to the realities of remote future cannot account for the intricate interdependence of the old and the new in global politics. Life shows that the never cooling magma of international events which tend to overlap minimizes or reduces to zero whatever efforts international experts make to provide substantiated arguments for both long-term and middle-term prognostic prospects.

Given the unexpected changes of turbulent streams of events, it would be too premature to describe the basic factors of a new world order: such a forecast may easily shift in the direction of futurological predictions which are very often interpreted loosely enough.

At present, amid the acute crisis of a pandemic, it is essential, as never before, to be able to analyze, to understand what is critically important or substantial, and what is merely a “detail”, something secondary, an instance; it is significant to sense a disparity between an illusion, a false reality, and the true essence of international phenomena and developments; to detect the deep-lying reasons and specifics of global, regional and local conflicts and  confrontations. What acquires a particular practical and political value is the undistorted realization of the intertwined web of homogeneous elements and heterogenous opposites, which will make themselves felt with an ever greater impact in the new world order.

Significantly, as the humanity recovers from the pandemic shock, the ideas that the pandemic produced a powerful impact on the formation of a new world order become less categorical, less radical. Could it not be a warning from the future, that a lot of the past is still ahead of us, and we will say afterwards that the future is largely behind us?

First of all, this refers to a range of issues related to globalization. The acceleration of differently directed processes in the globalized space is currently estimated across a wide spectrum of definitions: anti-globalism, de-globalization, false universalism, counter-trends in the development of globalization etc. Other assessments prognostically boil down to the reformatting of globalization, neo-globalism, and even – apparently with an excessive haste –  to post-globalization.

The pandemic laid bare a conflict that is linked to the earlier, centrifugal tendencies in the development of globalization: the crisis is global – the measures against it are local ones, mainly within the centralized «national state» framework. The coronavirus crisis drew a line under the era of neo-liberal minimization of the role of a national state. The conviction of many years that the functional potential of a state is due to undergo erosion and is bound to wear itself out has been rejected. The reverse geopolitical drift towards “a national state” means that the new is the well-overlooked old.

Overcoming the traumatic shock of the coronavirus pandemic becomes dependent on the protection of the state, since the potential of international organizations for assisting countries in combating the pandemic proved limited to negligible figures. In the conditions of a large-scale disorientation of neo-liberal establishment the state regains the role of a centralized regulator. Threatened by a catastrophic depression, the state is forced to think in global categories of a crisis and is made to act quickly within sovereign institutional bounds. Consequently the pandemic put a finishing touch to the crisis of  the neo-liberal model of the world order, and it did so in a flicker of a moment, revealing in a congested form the new flaws and reaffirming the old structural and functional defects of such a model. This will certainly affect the formation of a new world order: interstate conflicts are imminent, fraught with intensification of global imbalances.

In this respect, the basic meaning of the concepts “multipolarity” and “polycentrism” acquires a particular political and methodological relevance. These two notions are used so frequently on a daily basis that they are automatically regarded as identical even in political documents, let alone in numerous publications which are related directly or indirectly to global politics and international relations. Meanwhile, the original separation of these concepts and the specifics of their meaning give rise to an appropriate interpretation of the transformational direction of the world order. Polarity incorporates a more or less direct conflict; polycentrism suggests an intricate interaction of several independent centers of force, capable of creating various geopolitical configurations, which preserve an extensive potential for the protection of their national and state interests.

The age of hegemonic unipolarity is coming to an end. Such the “end of history” became inevitable. The clearly visible new centers of force scattered all over the  world, making it difficult and burdensome for the Unites States to eliminate them one by one, let alone, in total, are becoming a characteristic feature of the oncoming polycentric world order, which is unavoidably provided with elements of asymmetry.

In the new world order, the commonly recognized concepts of leadership and hegemony will pass into the realm of other, radically transformed and undergoing profound change, relevances. The prospects of America-oriented leadership, invariably associated with hegemonism, are infinitely slim as the world is moving towards the formation of new centers of force, new geopolitical formats without a pronounced centric role of one of the most influential global players.

The critical obliteration of the neo-liberal model of world order was largely facilitated by D.Trump, who exerted every effort to rid the USA of binding international commitments in the political, military-strategic, trade and economic spheres, at times detrimental to the interests of American allies. An open encroachment upon the independent role of the EU as a weighty global player is a glaring proof of that. The fundamental principle of Trumpism «America first», which ignores the new geopolitical and geoeconomic realities, becomes a slow-action bomb to destroy any constructive attempts at international cooperation in building the future world order, which would meet the interests of the entire world community. Undoubtedly, the battle on the geopolitical and geoeconomic fronts will get new or modified old centrifugal development. It will thus become much more difficult to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution.

Multilateral partnership and even bilateral ties between allies are becoming more fragile. As international cooperation as a whole becomes more complicated, it can largely be characterized as “competitive”.

The monetization by Trump of relations with the allies has become an integral part of the American foreign policy. At present, few if any would give a clear answer to the question how long this monetization will persist in the post-Trump period  and whether it will affect the future world order.

The coronavirus crisis has made relations between the USA and China more toxic. The US-China acutely competing trade and economic claims have become a signature feature of global politics for long. The two countries’ tough confrontation in the area of international security, originally resulting from inequality of nuclear potential in favor of the USA, will last long as well. But it would be too primitive to tie the final prospects of the currently transforming world order to the new tough bipolarity USA-China. Given the dramatic rise of the geopolitical status of such key players as Russia, India, Brazil, and the EU’s striving towards sovereign autonomy on the international scene,  what is possible is asymmetric polycentrism, that is, realignment of force formats in the global space.

As for Russia, geopolitically, in order to reach parity, or at least, a comparable economic level with the USA and China, the most beneficial position would be ‘in-between’ –  it would enable Russia to pursue a flexible policy with due regard for its own strategic interests and priorities. Russia has already become a significant balancing factor in global politics and international relations. Let’s compare the incomparable: Russia’s geopolitical weight of twenty years ago and Russia’s geopolitical weight today. Though, without a powerful innovative breakthrough Russia will find it increasingly difficult to perform the ever more challenging function of an international balancer.

From our partner International Affairs

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International Law

Civic and Ethnic Nationalism in a Populist World: Behind the Facade of Dichotomies

Rida Fatima

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The Rise of Anti-System Politics

The walk into the twenty-first century is marked by enormous structural shifts. The rise of neoliberal capitalism and the vulnerability created by financial crises has mobilized the politics of resentment. This process of asymmetrical development has created both the winners and the losers of modernity. The nuanced horizontal and vertical inequalities are giving rise to what Jonathan Hopkin calls the ‘Anti-system Politics’ or simply populism. This phenomenon is marked by the tussle of two homogenous groups; the people and the elite, which are at loggerheads with each other.

However, there is not any stream of anti-system politics; rather it falls at both ends of the political spectrum; left and right. It is marked by the Pink Tide in Latin America, rise of nationalist strongmen in the Central and Eastern European states, Hindu nationalism in India and the white ethnic nationalism in the Anglosphere. And the reason why the materialization of populism is distinctive in the spatial-temporal zones is because all the states have different welfare systems. They have distinct ways of filtering the effects of socio-cultural or economic changes. In doing so, they cushion some groups while exposing others to risks. In such a scenario, populism with its alternative action channel fills in the vacuum through its ‘moralist appeal’ to reclaim power of ‘the people’.

Both populism and nationalism being mass movements hold a focus towards the collective. And the ‘empty heart’ of populism with its ambiguous definition of the people, finds ‘elective affinities’ with nationalism. This profusion has further tangled the varying streams of anti-system politics. However, there are two similarities. First, all anti-system politics is about caching power. And secondly, it acts on myths of dichotomies. In furtherance, when the Kohnian civic ethnic distinction is applied to right-wing left-wing populism, the conclusions become mostly erroneous. It leads to an assumption that right-wing populism is nativist, exclusionary, and ethno-cultural by nature whereas left-wing populism is more inclusive and civic.But both civic and ethnic dimensions of nationalism are the part of populist politics. 

The right-wing populism of the BJP in India, Tea Party wing and Donald Trump of the Republican Party in the US, Le Pan in France and United Kingdom Independence Party in the UK are all marked by an appeal to right-wing populism. But in addition to that, these movements are not ethno-nationalist in the Kohnian sense rather they are ‘ethno-traditional nationalist’.And they instrumentalize the civic nationalist narrative to broaden their vote-base. This is precisely the justification of exclusion carried out in civic terms as the biological language is replaced by an ideological one.

Political Entrepreneurship: Instrumentalization and Mobilization

The political entrepreneurs: in both electoral populism and populist movements, act as an agency for strategically articulating the latent grievances. Thus, both the demand and supply side perspectives are crucial vantage points for a prudent analysis of the populist rise.The demand-side resentment is both addressed and tailored by the supply-side entrepreneurs through the perspective of nationalism.

In electoral populism, dissent is instrumentalized and it is mobilized through nationalistic appeals. Populism coupled with nationalism leads to the radical right-wing politics that it is witnessed in both Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America, and South Asia. Both the ideologies indicate a sense of social closure in one dimension or another. It is done by fixing what Bankim Chandra calls the ‘cultural attitudes’ which limit the sense of inclusivity and pluralism. But the question is why to appeal to the people on national, cultural, or ethnic grounds? Isiah Berlin suggested in the 1960s that nationalism is a core characteristic for the success of any political movement. And as both the ideologies are an antithesis of an open society, their profusion generates cognitive, social, and political rigidities.

The political entrepreneurs utilize these ‘banal’ ideas to introduce their own political agenda. It helps in building a foundation of the new system on the entrenched realities of the old system. A case study of various electorally successful right-wing populist parties like the Swiss People Party in Switzerland, French National Front of France, National Democratic Party of Germany and Pim Fortuyn List in Denmark indicate that populist leader or political entrepreneurs who make use of national ‘symbolic resources’ with a civic appeal perform better in their political system. And the civic nationalism in the West provides the platform to the radical-right populists who attain and maintain their share of power based on civic values without undermining their exclusionary ethno-traditional policies. Civic and ethnic nationalism are the means to attain the ends of populist politics. The political entrepreneurs tactically oscillate between both the civic and ethnic dimension of nationalism by persistently engendering a sense of threatened ‘bounded moral community’ at risk from the outsiders.

Akin to electoral populism, populist movements use grievances as a latent force. But that does not explain why the anti-immigration protests by PEGIDA were not instigated prior to 2014, or why the Occupy Wall Street movement came after the major shockwaves of the Great Recession were absorbed. To explain this there is a need to understand the role of political entrepreneurs as opportunity seekers who articulate the shared grievances when the time is ripe to fulfill their agenda backed with shared resentments.

Populism and Nationalism: A Bi-Dimensional Analysis

In all mass movements, ‘sociological necessities’ are invented and instrumentalized by the political elite. Nationalism and populism are no exceptions. A national myth is invented through a common heritage and mobilized through horizontal differences. Whereas the populist myths are brought back from ‘under the rug’ and mobilized through vertical antagonisms. And when combined, this the bi-dimensional dissidence defines the politics of the new age.

The resentment against those at the top and outsiders are mutually constitutive of the populist politics. The right-wing variant of this infusion criticizes multicultural politics, acceptance of refugees and the elite’s consideration of the indigenous population as xenophobic. This is the prime scene in the European and North American contexts as Hilary Clinton reportedly called Trump’s supporters as ‘basket of deplorables’. Such differences accentuate the need of people’s sovereignty over the state. And because the ethnic/cultural nationalism signifies ‘the people’ over the nation, it is easily juxtaposed with the populist discourse.

The ‘civic nationalism normalization’ strategy is used to disguise the exclusionary cultural politics behind the facade of legitimizing only the interests of the in-group. The Front National (FN) and the Alterative for Germany (AfD) both use a value-laden out-grouping of the Muslims based on their anti-Islamist agendas. And they instrumentalize civic nationalist discourse to legitimize their claims that Muslims are not an outgroup based on their ethnic descent rather on voluntarist reasons as they do not adhere to the democratic values. This is a supply of populist ideas through nationalist channels; covertly ethnic/cultural and overtly civic.

Manichean Myth to Chameleon Reality

Nationalism has its roots in the Greek city states and was crystallized as an idea of organization in the treaty of Westphalia in 1648. During the decolonization from 1945-1960, nationalism was at its pinnacle. However, since then it has been on a downward trajectory. But the populist utilization of the nationalist concepts has given it a new color. The entrenched resentments are being voiced not just by the minority ethnic/cultural groups but also the majority who feel threatened by the minority’s rising rights and political participation in what Rawls calls the post diversity era. The Muhajirs in Karachi are a classic example of a chameleon nationalism which has utilized both ethnic and civic strands to widen the vote base. Both the political movements, populism and nationalism are political projects which are in continual process of transition.

Despite modernization, the center-periphery distinction still pertains based on a deliberate exclusion of the peripheral identities to form a homogenous power circle at the center. And the grievances and opportunities created in this gap are mobilized and exacerbated by the political entrepreneurs. And the infusion of populism and nationalism are changed with the changing socio-political and economic contexts to cache the rising opportunities. The right-wing populism is not based on rigidities of objective identities but on the flexibility to catch the opportunity situations.

The ethnic groups too are not homogenous which indicates their divided politics to gain benefits. The myth of groupism is instrumental not factual. In this way they utilize both civic and ethnic nationalist appeals firstly, to cater to their in-group and secondly, to widen their prospects of political ins. In this way their politics becomes amorphous which is easily utilized by thin ideology like populism and the mix generates popular differences.Thus, the ethnic conflicts in the populist world are not the pure outcome of ethnic groups rather of ethnic organizations and populist political entrepreneurs.

Conclusion

Ethnic and cultural nationalism are not primarily nativist rather opportunistic. The populist world has provided nuanced avenues for the articulation of the ethno-cultural resentments which are exacerbated by the modern inequalities. However, the Kohnian civic-ethnic dichotomy is too rigid to explain the anomalous instrumentalist nature of the populist movements which build up on the combination of both ethnic and civic nationalism.

The analysis suggests that the populist world is a juggernaut of various thick ideologies which are used as an opportunistic context to propagate the agenda of the political entrepreneurs. Civic and ethnic nationalism were relevant before and instrumental now. They are both entrenched and tailored, natural, and transitive and contextual and opportunistic. Hence, the idea of nationalism is in a vicious cycle of constructive usage by the populist leaders and not merely a matter of some fixated identities.

Before the coronavirus in late 2019, there was a rise of a counter-populist wave on the fringes as observed through the leaderless protests where the middle class who once supported the populist movements was ‘revolting against the revolt’. However, the rise of the pandemic exacerbated a kind of nationalist populist response.Now the question is about who writes a better political bargain to satiate the rising middle class and that shall determine the course of future politics.

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International Law

Refugees In The Outbreak Of The Pandemic

Parismita Goswami

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Rohingya refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Myanmar (file photo). IOM/Mohammed

The COVID-19 today is having an adverse impact on our lives although it has brought exceptional changes in climate and human behavior. The increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the 21st century explains the intensified global scenario. The refugee crisis is the greatest humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen where most of them are internally displaced persons. Yet, they are humans with unique life experiences; they had dreams, children who are dwelling hopes of normal life, and a better tomorrow. The mothers are longing to return home, fathers yearning to work again, and an identity. Leaving behind their homes, being prosecuted from the country, and losing their loved ones; refugees had gone through the worst of time. Refugees are the worst sufferers in this 21st century. Around 80 million homeless people in the world most of them are from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia. The Syrian crisis reported being the greatest refugee crisis in the world. The United Nations also estimated the women and children to be the worst sufferers.

The refugees were tormented by years of poverty, poor health, and lack of basic infrastructures like education, food, health care, sanitation, social security, and etc. Humanitarian organizations have stretched beyond their capacity to help millions of refugees over the years. The WHO and UN Refugee Agency have signed new agreements to provide health services and benefits to the displaced and vulnerable population around the world. Among the 79.5 million forcibly displaced individuals lacks access to clean water or soap. Despite social and economic setbacks due to the pandemic, health is still the paramount factor affecting the poor and homeless. During the COVID-19 situation around the world food, medicine or sanitary products and even clean water have become inaccessible for many refugees. Social distancing has become a major concern in the refugee camps.

Challenges Upfront

The COVID -19  is severely affecting the education of the children in the refugee camps. In the refugee camps only 63% of refugees are enrolled in primary school and 24% in secondary education where most of the children are left out. The limit in pursuing education continues potentially in the refugee camps and its worsening due to the pandemic. There is a growing possibility of discrimination and xenophobia is affecting the process of socialization in their host country. Nevertheless, an unequal world with challenges to achieve education and skill training for self-development must be ceased.

In Yemen, more than 3 million people have been displaced and approximately 17 million require food. Yemen’s health facilities have either been destroyed or damaged in the conflict and with the unbridled transmission of COVID‑19 in Aden; Yemenis are living through the worst humanitarian crisis. Only a few health centers are operational in Yemen where the numbers of patients suffering from malnutrition, cholera, dengue fever, and injuries of war are very high.

In India almost 18,000 Rohingya refugees are taking shelter where thousands of them live in densely populated settlements in preposterous conditions; a third world country with the second-highest population in the world. India can hardly feed its population and especially it hosts a huge number of Refugees. Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees have access to certain rights as assisted by the government, while the Rohingyas are still struggling for it. But, in Bangladesh, the WHO is working with governments to secure the health of nearly one million Rohingya refugees against the multiple threats of the pandemic and including natural disasters in the upcoming monsoon season.

The COVID-19 is increasing the needs and vulnerabilities of the Refugees. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is concerned about the collateral effects of the pandemic among the Refugees. According to the UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, due to the degrading socio-economic plight of the forcibly displaced people and poverty among them has made them a target to several traffickers that are immorally exploiting and profiteering from their culpability. The adolescent girls and children have become the victims of sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, and organ removal, forced recruitment into armed groups, forced marriages, or forced begging. The COVID-19-related impacts on restricted movements, closures, or availability of proper help, support services are put to constrain. The pandemic has limited the opportunity for the refugees, particularly women to seek legal support for sexual and gender-based violence.

On the World Day against Trafficking, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNHCR proposed for support in the prevention of trafficking and response efforts globally. The Governments and humanitarian actors together must ensure and assist the victims of trafficking

mostly among the displaced people where they are in immediate need of protection. A major initiative was taken by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) to monitor the events and trend of COVID-19 among displaced populations in camps and non-camps settings for their safety.

Conclusion

 Resources are available in scanty, refugee camps and settlements are becoming overcrowded and many are being forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures during the winters. For those living in refugee camps or camp-like situations, they also face an increased risk of COVID-19. In refugee camps, it is difficult to practice public health measures like frequent hand washing or social distancing. Therefore, it is also the responsibility of the host government to provide aid and essentials to the refugees living in their country. But in many cases, the host governments don’t have enough financial capability but can arrange testing services in certain regions, regardless of whether an individual is a national or a refugee. Secondly, even though high-income countries are currently most affected, they need to assist low- and middle-income countries because those countries don’t have the means to deal with COVID-19. The outbreak of the pandemic in populous and poor countries will put the rest of the world at continued risk.

It’s true of the fact that the world was not prepared for a pandemic and COVID-19 does not respect any boundaries. But, the governments should not use pandemic as an excuse for applying repressive policies. Efforts should be made spread information in every camp that have limited source to reliable information about COVID-19 and measures of protection.

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