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People's tribunal in Malaysia begins hearing on atrocities against Rohingyas

By Garima Tyagi
Kuala Lumpur, Sep 18 (IANS) As thousands of Rohingya Muslims flee persecution in their country, an international peoples tribunal on alleged atrocities and state crimes against the Rohingya, Kachins and other ethnic minority groups in Myanmar began its hearing from Monday in Malaysia.

The convener of the opinion tribunal is the Rome-based Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT), an international public opinion tribunal that operates independent of state authorities.

The purpose of the tribunal is to “expose” the alleged inhuman treatment to Rohingyas and push to stop the crimes. It will hear victims from the Myanmar ethnic communities, record their testimonies on their experiences in a court-like setting.

The process will be similar to a hearing, with the Myanmar ethnic groups testifying before a seven-jury member in Kuala Lumpur from September 18-22 at Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Law.

India jurist Bellur Narayanaswamy SriKrishna, a retired Supreme Court judge, was to be part of the jury but he could not come.

On September 22, the tribunal will make a conclusion based on oral testimonies on the atrocities and give findings to the United Nation’s Fact Finding Mission that was tasked to send its official to Yangon.

The findings are not legally binding and cannot be enforced by law.

On March 6 and 7 this year a similar tribunal was held in London which concluded that the UN and Asean had to take swift action against Myanmar to stop the crimes against minorities groups.

Since it was set up in 1979, PPT has held hearings on collective human rights violations around the world.

The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine, have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, which calls them illegal immigrants.

Rights groups accused the Myanmar military of burning Rohingya villages, raping women. But the Army said it was responding to attacks by militants and has denied targeting civilians.

According to the UN, 391,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since violence broke out in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state on August 25.

The current humanitarian crisis began following an attack by the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on police and military posts in the northwestern state of Rakhine that had led to a violent offensive by the Myanmar Army.

(Garima Tyagi is in Malaysia on the invite of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) and can be reached at [email protected])

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