1948Published on April 19, 2018
The Commonwealth leaders have expressed solidarity with Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue and demanded justice for the persecution of the minority group in Myanmar.
“Heads expressed full solidarity with the Government and the people of Bangladesh affected by the influx of more than a million Rohingya from Rakhine State in Myanmar,” they said in a communiqué by the end of the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London on Friday.
The communiqué said they commended Bangladesh for providing shelter to the distressed community facing an existential threat.
It added the Commonwealth leaders called for “accountability of the perpetrators of gross violations of human rights through an independent process of investigation” along with a halt to all violence and a restoration of normality in Myanmar.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was also present.
At a seminar in London on Tuesday, she said more international pressure needed to be heaped on Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees as she rejected claims by the Myanmar government the repatriation process had already started.
"Myanmar says they are ready to take back the Rohingya, but they are not taking the initiative," the prime minister said.
At the first executive session of CHOGM on Thursday, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised Hasina for her “outstanding” leadership in handling the Rohingya refugees.
“The Commonwealth leaders must support her," he said.
Hasina also spoke about the Rohingya issue for a long time in the meeting.
The prime minister referred to the five-point proposal she had presented in last year’s UN General Assembly.
She also called for support of the Commonwealth leaders to mount international pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.
The communiqué said the Commonwealth leaders called for the sustainable return of all displaced Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh to their “rightful homes” in Myanmar under UNHCR oversight.
They also called for the creation of the necessary conditions for sustainable return in safety, security and dignity.
They agreed action was needed to address the root causes of the current crisis, including through the immediate implementation of the recommendations by the Rakhine Advisory Commission headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan.
They described the general agreement and arrangements reached between Bangladesh and Myanmar as “a beginning towards the sustainable return of the Rohingya and their reintegration into Myanmar society as equal members”.
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled from their homes in Myanmar to Bangladesh after Rohingya militant attacks in August sparked a military crackdown that the UN and Western nations have called ethnic cleansing.
Bangladesh was already sheltering around 400,000 Rohingyas who fled decades of persecution in Myanmar, which deny them citizenship.
The communiqué said the Commonwealth leaders also discussed many other issues, including gender equality and inclusion, strengthening democratic institutions and promoting peace, migration, intra-Commonwealth trade and investment, climate change and prevention of violent extremism, human trafficking and child exploitation.
They accepted the offer of Rwanda to host their next meeting in 2020.