Good things come to those who wait. Invest for the future. Patience is a virtue. Despite our instant gratification culture we still place value on things that take time. We're willing to spend that time and put in the effort, because it's worth it.

Justice is one of those things. Sometimes it's swift, sometimes not. But either way, it must be done.

Fatima is just like any other 12-year-old girl. She's a human being. She wants to be happy, just like every 12-year-old you see at intermediate school in New Zealand. But Fatima is Rohingya.


When the Myanmar military came to her village and started torching houses, she and her family ran. The soldiers opened fire on them from behind. She saw her father Ahmad and 10-year-old sister Rofia get shot and fall to the ground. Then she was hit by a bullet in the back of her right leg, just above the knee.

Fatima's neighbour picked her up and kept running. It was a week before they arrived in Bangladesh and Fatima could get treatment for the wound. Then she found out her mother and older brother were also killed in the attack.

Stories like these are hard to wrap our heads around. But profound injustice gets us right in the heart. And for the sake of the world we all want to live in, we know that justice must be done. The perpetrators must be held accountable and stopped from doing it again.

In August 2017 the Myanmar security forces launched a widespread and systematic assault on hundreds of Rohingya villages. More than 725,000 Rohingya women, men and children fled northern Rakhine State to neighbouring Bangladesh. The military's atrocities are well documented: Burning of villages, use of landmines, murder, rape, forced starvation and torture.

So what now?

Firstly, we have to save lives at what has become the world's largest refugee camp —​ Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh. The UN has appealed for funds, urgently needed to help people survive the monsoon season in an overcrowded expanse of mud, precarious huts, disease and the mental health crisis that comes when people flee crimes against humanity. You would think UN member states would front up with a relatively small amount of funding, compared to other lines in their budgets.

But the UN appeal is 67 per cent unfunded.

There are some positive signs. One is the New Zealand Government announcement in July of an additional $4 million in humanitarian assistance for people affected by the violence in Myanmar, including those who have fled to Cox's Bazaar. That brings the total New Zealand humanitarian support to the Rohingya crisis and Myanmar to $8.39 million since September last year.

In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council has just taken a crucial step in the fight for accountability in Myanmar by establishing an Independent Investigative Mechanism. This makes the pathway to justice possible for the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities who have suffered atrocities at the hands of the country's security forces.

The new mechanism will collect and preserve evidence and prepare case files for any future criminal prosecution of those responsible for some of the gravest crimes under international law.

Another positive movement comes from The Hague. Amnesty International and others have been calling for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court. The ICC recently ruled that it has jurisdiction over —​ meaning it can begin a preliminary examination of —​ Myanmar's forced deportation of the Rohingya population to Bangladesh, a crime against humanity.

This is good news, but it's limited to the deportations and only to a small part of the country, not the rest of the country or the other crimes the Myanmar military committed.

More is necessary. While the UN Human Rights Council has taken meaningful action in the fight for justice in Myanmar, the same can't be said for the UN Security Council. It has a clear responsibility to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, so the other crimes against humanity can be investigated —​ those that happened to Fatima and thousands like her.

As the global body tasked with maintaining international peace and security, the UN Security Council's ongoing failure to do so is a stain on its credibility.

Human rights don't simply happen because they're enshrined in treaties and conventions. They require accountability and responsibility for others. They emerge out of what we say and do, which makes them part of the fabric of having a good life in a decent society. A life characterised by mutual respect, fairness, equality, freedom and justice.

For Fatima's sake —​ and all the hundreds of thousands of others —​ let's keep up the pressure on every front until justice is done.

Tony Blackett is executive director of Amnesty International New Zealand.