APRRN MOURNS THE DEATH OF ROHINGYA LEADER MOHIBULLAH AND CALLS FOR MORE DETERMINED INTERNATIONAL ACTION
21 October 2021
APRRN mourns the death of Rohingya leader Mohibullah and calls for more determined international action to protect Rohingya action
BANGKOK, 1 October 2021
APRRN condemns in the strongest terms the brutal killing of Mohibullah, Chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), at his office in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. We express our deepest condolences to his family, colleagues, and the Rohingya community.
Mohibullah was a courageous and dedicated human rights activist and community leader. He worked for local and international humanitarian organisations in Rakhine State before fleeing to Bangladesh in 2017. Soon after arriving in Cox’s Bazar, Mohibullah founded ARSPH and organised Rohingya refugees to document human rights violations, calling for Myanmar citizenship, security, and accountability. In 2018 and 2019, Mohibullah and his colleagues mobilised massive non-violent demonstrations in the camps calling for safe, voluntary, and dignified repatriation to Myanmar. Through his tireless advocacy on behalf of his people, Mohibullah emerged as the most prominent leader among Rohingya refugees in the Bangladesh camps. He and his organisation became a convening point for dialogue between Rohingya refugees and a wide range of stakeholders, from visiting foreign ministers and diplomats to human rights delegations. In 2019, Mohibullah briefed an APRRN delegation of human rights commissioners from several ASEAN countries and also met with several ministers from Malaysia who APRRN accompanied to the camp. In all these meetings, Mohibullah advocated passionately for the fundamental rights of Rohingya refugees to return to their homeland and facilitated the participation of diverse members of the Rohingya refugee community, including women, youth, and the elderly. His death is a tragic loss for the entire Rohingya community.
As Mohibullah stated: “As Rohingya refugees living in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, we ask not to be celebrated, but for our rights—the rights to justice, to citizenship, and to return home.”
Mohibullah is the most prominent activist to have been killed in the camps, but many others, including religious leaders, journalists, and ordinary civilians have in recent years been abducted or killed. Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to seek safety but continue to face insecurity and severe harm in the camps. On multiple occasions, human rights defenders, women and girls, and members of other vulnerable minority communities within the Rohingya population have demanded better protection.
Under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” Further, as a signatory to the ICCPR, Bangladesh is obliged “[t]o ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms ... are violated shall have an effective remedy” (ICCPR, Article 2(3)(a)). His killers must be brought to justice.
“The laws and systems that exclude marginalised groups have failed us again. The international community, including the Bangladesh government, should take immediate actions against such acts to ensure the safety of Rohingya advocates and leaders from the camps. Their lives should be equally protected as the lives of any other humans regardless of their status.”
- Hafsar Tameesuddin, Chair of APRRN
Concerns with stringent security measures which exacerbate security risks
Beginning in August 2019, the Bangladesh government has enacted a series of stringent security measures in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. These have severely affected access to basic rights for the Rohingya and constrained humanitarian access. The fragile protection and security situation underscores the need for a robust legal and policy framework, collaboration, and coordination across a whole-of-society approach, and the meaningful inclusion of the Rohingya refugees in decision-making, coordination mechanisms, and in the humanitarian response.
Rather than improve the security of refugees, Government measures—such as telecommunications restrictions, crackdowns on Rohingya civil society groups, the construction of fencing, relocation to Bhasan Char, and the increased securitization and surveillance within the camps—are exacerbating security challenges. These measures further alienate refugees, and increase fear and insecurity among both Rohingya refugees and host communities. These restrictions have been reimposed and aggressively enforced since the COVID-19 pandemic; new measures enacted purportedly to contain the spread of the virus have made conditions less safe. Rohingya refugees in the camps have also had to contend with fires that have killed 11 refugees and destroyed 10,000 shelters, as well as flooding and landslides that caused the deaths of 10 refugees and forced around 24,000 to abandon their homes and belongings.
We call on the Bangladeshi authorities to investigate the murder of Mohibullah and to promptly charge and prosecute the perpetrators according to due process of law. Access to justice is essential for all residents.
The Government of Bangladesh, along with other stakeholders, must work to protect refugee human rights defenders in the camp. This includes tailoring protection interventions to meet the unique and specific needs of the Rohingya and building a safe and enabling environment for the defence of human rights.
For security measures to be effective in protecting refugees, refugees—including leaders like Mohibullah was, as well as women and marginalised groups—must be actively involved in shaping them.
The international community must work with Bangladesh and other nations hosting Rohingya refugees to protect their basic rights and freedoms while working for solutions to the crisis, including achieving conditions in Myanmar that will allow for safe, voluntary, and dignified return and offering resettlement to safe countries for those at risk.
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