GLENDALE—The Armenian Bar Association, the largest organization of Armenian lawyers, judges, law professors and law students outside the Republic Armenia, through its Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC, has spoken often about crimes against humanity and the need to hold their perpetrators accountable. After all, we are descendants of those who experienced the scourge of genocide 103 years ago. We can attest to the fact that the passage of time does not heal the wounds inflicted, and the ripple effect of such great wrongs transcends nationality, religion, race and national borders.
From 1915 to 1923, the world lamented but did little to stop the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks. The slaughter and dispossession of millions of Armenians paved the way for another horrific calamity two decades later: the Jewish Holocaust. We believe there is a moral imperative that when others suffer crimes against humanity—as our people did—we speak and act to prevent such crimes from occurring. For this reason, we speak now about the case of the Rohingya people.
The persecution of the Rohingyans is unfolding in real time—at this very moment. The time to act is likewise at this very moment. Genocide is not a crime relegated to history books, for it remains as a tool of ethnic cleansing in the playbook of some state actors.
The ARWC calls on the Presidents of the United States, People’s Republic of China, Russian Federation, and on all world leaders, to immediately intervene and stop the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, create an international criminal court for investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against the Rohingyas, and provide necessary humanitarian relief to the survivors.
The Rohingyas are being subjected to mass murder, rape, burning of their villages and people, and theft of their properties. Today, it is they who are on the receiving end of planned and targeted military incursions and ensuing mass exodus. Today, it is they who are being driven from their ancestral homeland. The U.N. High Commission on Human Rights has called the actions of Myanmar military as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The U.S. State Department, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have all condemned it. And, to be sure, Romeo Dallaire, a legendary former general of the United Nations, has called it “a very deliberate genocide.”
The atrocities in Rakhine State will predictably be denied by those who are perpetrating it, and denials by those who are complicit, will follow. So will destruction of evidence, attempts to rewrite history, blaming of the victims, and efforts to discredit those who shed light onto the darkness befallen on the people affected.
The mass crimes taking place in Rakhine State affect the collective humanity of all nations. A world which does not rise and intervene is a world complicit in—and guilty of—Genocide.