Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:27 pm on 20th December 2018.

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Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State 3:27 pm, 20th December 2018

I very much respect what the hon. Lady has said, and, as she will know, I share her concerns. We will do all that we can.

If I may, in the time allotted to me, I will say a little more about what else we are doing in the international community. The Foreign Secretary is the Minister who visited Burma most recently, back in September. He made our expectations very clear to Aung San Suu Kyi, and repeated that message in a letter written jointly with the French Foreign Minister. He made clear that if the commission of inquiry was to have any credibility, it must be transparent and independent, and must take full account of the international evidence brought to it. If it is not and does not, the Burmese authorities and their supporters at the United Nations will, in our view, have no grounds whatsoever for rejecting moves towards an international mechanism to secure that accountability.

Let me now say something about the UK’s international action. We are, in the meantime, building on our success at the September session of the Human Rights Council, where we secured a regulation mandating the creation of a “collect and preserve” mechanism. That will support the preparation of case files for use in future prosecutions. I fear that some of the leading lights of the Burmese military will be there for some time to come, but that unique mechanism will enable evidence to be in place for those future prosecutions.

We have been clear with fellow members that the Security Council should take further action, and we have tried to build consensus on what that might be. I know that many Members would like the Security Council to refer the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court, but a referral would be extremely difficult to achieve, because veto-wielding members of the Security Council would vote against it. I must say to the hon. Members for Tooting and for Bradford East and others that there is a risk that a vetoed resolution would be counterproductive to our aims, because it would reduce pressure on the Burmese military, and would also undermine the very credibility of the United Nations.

I know that some look back at China’s decision to abstain rather than vetoing the UN Security Resolution in 2005 referring the Darfur situation to the International Criminal Court. I believe that we should test what China is prepared to accept in this situation, but I also think we need to recognise that the way in which that nation behaved in 2005 in relation to a crisis in Africa may not be the way in which a China that is rather more assertive on the international stage behaves in relation to a crisis in its own neighbourhood.