Cate Blanchett has called for the UN to take action in support of Rohingya driven from Myanmar, a day after a damning UN report found the country’s leaders should face genocide charges.
Goodwill Ambassador Blanchett spoke to the UN Security Council in New York in a meeting to mark one year since a brutal military crackdown drove more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of Rakhine State in the country’s west.
The Oscar-winning actress described the “shockingly routine” stories of torture, rape and people whose loved ones had been killed before their eyes she heard when she visited Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh earlier this year.
Rohingya have “real deep fears” about returning to Myanmar after several waves of displacement over the last four decades, Blanchett said, as the problem is “so large and so severe that there are more Rohingya living in exile than in Myanmar itself.”
She appealed to the 15-member Security Council to push forward with action and for countries to support the relief effort, which is currently only 33 per cent funded.
There are no shortcuts, there are no alternatives. We have failed the Rohingya before – please let us not fail them again.”
The UN’s independent fact-finding mission recommended referring Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would require the agreement of the 15-member council.
The report also urged the UN Security Council to adopt targeted sanctions against individuals from the military and impose an arms embargo on Myanmar.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed a special envoy to the country in reaction to the crisis.
The UN has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Myanmar’s authorities to set conditions for the return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, but observers say it is not safe to go back.
“It is clear that conditions are not yet met for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees to their places of origin or choice,” Guterres said.
Rights groups have been critical of the UN Security Council’s lack of action in response to the crisis and have issued renewed calls for the council to ensure accountability for crimes against Rohingya.
The UN report said the country’s military committed crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture, enslavement, violence against children and the destruction of whole villages.
Myanmar has already disassociated itself from the findings, saying it did not accept the fact-finding mission’s report.
The government’s own investigation team launched last month was widely denounced by human rights watchers as being a whitewash and unlikely to bring real accountability over the Rohingya.