Does UN Have Credible Human Rights Policy? – OpEd


It is surprising that when India took steps to deport seven Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar with full cooperation from the Myanmar government to take back the refugees, UN human rights officials criticized the move and almost condemned India’s action. On the other hand, one would expect that UN should applaud India’s decision and view India’s move to deport the refugees back to Myanmar and Myanmar government agreeing to receive them as a positive and constructive move. Such approach could be a trend setter and pave way for the return of around 1.2 million Rohingya refugees who are now staying in 30 camps spread over 6000 acres in Bangladesh, with no idea as to what the future would hold for them.

Millions of refugees around the world have rushed to other countries and are staying permanently there causing social and economic problems for the regions. Rarely have the world seen instances of refugees returning back to their motherland.

When thousands of Rohingyas left Myanmar and reached Bangladesh, UN strongly condemned the Myanmar government and it’s military for the situation. Earlier, the Rohingya militants were causing huge violence in Myanmar and attacked several police stations and government establishments, which inevitably forced the Myanmar government to act to put down the rebels. UN did nothing and said nothing when the Rohingya militants created unrest in Myanmar and simply watched the situation from the gallery.

In all such cases, where refugees seek asylum in other countries , UN simply sympathised with the refugees and has nothing to say about the conflict that happened which resulted in refugees rushing out.

In most incidents of refugee exodus in the past, it could be seen that militants and separatists who call themselves as liberators and freedom fighters have waged war against the establishments, when the governments have to necessarily fight back to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the region. In the process, innocent people suffer and seek asylum elsewhere to protect themselves. While UN is able to do nothing to resolve such conflicts, it simply reacts by sympathizing with the refugees and blaming the governments for the refugee exodus.

The classic recent example is Sri Lanka where the UN has been unduly critical against the Sri Lankan government for it’s acts when it had to necessarily take steps to put down the rebels who wanted to split Sri Lanka and form a separate country. It was a case of civil war in Sri Lanka between the separatists / militants and the government and both the parties used strong arm methods and both the parties indulged in human rights violation. UN is selectively critical of Sri Lankan government which had to fight to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country and has nothing to say about the violent acts of the militants.

With 1.2 million refugees presently on the soil of Bangladesh, many wonder as to whether these Rohingya refugees would go back to Myanmar at all. If they would not do so, it would continue to be an unbearable burden on Bangladesh and situation would become further worse , as the refugee population in Bangladesh would further swell due to more births. With being fed and without any work or skill, the Myanmar refugees would become a huge population that could contribute to instability and social tension in Bangladesh.

Myanmar government has agreed to take back Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh and UN should facilitate this by coordinating between Myanmar and Bangladesh government in a proactive and positive manner.

While Bangladesh is facing huge crisis now due to influx of around 1.2 million refugees, the officials and office bearers of UN are sitting at safe distance and are making critical observations about India’s move to deport rohingya refugees with full cooperation of the Myanmar government. This clearly give an impression that UN is turning out to be an armchair critic.

When India has successfully taken steps to deport the seven Rohingya refugees, this move should be considered as a model for facilitating the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar from Bangladesh. Good lessons have to be learnt from this move of India and based on this experience, the strategy to repatriate the refugees could be fine tuned.

Instead of viewing the whole exercise in a positive and proactive manner, the criticism of UN human rights officials against India’s move is acting as a damper and counter productive rhetoric.

In such scenario, one cannot but wonder whether UN has any credible and fair human rights policy at all and does it have any clarity on such issues.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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