By Ewelina U. Ochab, Forbes

Over recent months, if not years, we have seen a significant media focus on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, and rightfully so. The Rohingya Muslims have suffered horrific persecution in Burma, at the hands of the Burmese government (or on their authorisation) and hundreds of thousands of them were forced to flee for their lives to neighbouring Bangladesh.

In early 2017, the OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh, having conducted interviews with the forcibly displaced Rohingya Muslims, reported that the Burmese government, one way or another, subjected the Rohingya Muslims in Burma to:

Extrajudicial executions or other killings, including by random shooting; enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention; rape, including gang rape, and other forms of sexual violence; physical assault including beatings; torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; looting and occupation of property; destruction of property; and ethnic and religious discrimination and persecution.

As a result of the atrocities, over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee to Bangladesh. These atrocities are crimes against humanity. The crimes may also meet the threshold of genocide. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for example, described the atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims in Burma as ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’, and the UN Special Envoy for human rights in Myanmar identified the ‘hallmarks of a genocide’ within the horrendous crimes suffered by the Rohingya Muslims.

In April 2018, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (the ICC), Ms Fatou Bensouda, sought a ruling from the President of the Pre-Trial Division on the question of the ICC’s jurisdiction in the case: ‘whether the Court may exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh.’

While the ICC consideration is pending and the Burmese government continues to deny any involvement in the mass atrocities, further news of mass atrocities being perpetrated against other religious groups has surfaced.

Sky News investigation into the situation in Kachin state, a mostly Christian region, revealed that Christian minority groups are also being subjected to mass atrocities at the hands of the Burmese military. Aside from the crimes perpetrated against religious minorities in Kachin state, the Sky News investigation suggests that the Burmese government has been deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. The investigation suggests that the Burmese government has been denying ‘aid agencies, international observers, foreign diplomats and politicians access to the state’, namely actors that could assist the people living there. It must be emphasised that deliberately imposing such conditions is a recognised method of genocide.

First, they came for the Rohingya Muslims, but the response focused on a diplomatic dialogue, has achieved nothing. Then they came for Christian minorities, and little will change if there will be no decisive steps to address the situation. Then they will come for all other minorities in Burma, and so our humanity will suffer yet another blow.

The situation of Rohingya Muslims, Christians, and all other minorities requires an urgent and comprehensive response: to stop the ongoing violence and to help the victims with all their needs before the minorities disappear from the region. The response must include an adequate investigation of the alleged crimes and prosecution. The time for dialogue is over.

Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.”