Myanmar: UN expert calls for accountability over violence in Rakhine state

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A reception point for Rohingya refugees at Haria Khali Primary School in Sabrang Union of Teknaf Upazila, in Bangladesh. OCHA/Anthony Burke/UN News Centre

The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, told the Human Rights Council yesterday she was increasingly of the opinion that the events in Rakhine state bear the hallmarks of genocide and called in the strongest terms for accountability.

Lee, who was informed late last year that her access to the country was denied, also expressed serious concern that “the repressive practices of previous military governments were returning as the norm once more” in Myanmar, describing the situation faced by civil society across the country as “increasingly perilous”.

Delivering her report to thecCouncil in Geneva, Lee said that to date accountability for the crimes committed in Rakhine state following 25 August 2017, and 9 October 2016, was elusive, adding that this must now be the focus of the international community’s efforts to bring long-lasting peace, stability and democratisation to Myanmar.

“This must be aimed at the individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups,” said Lee. “The government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop, or condemn these acts must also be held accountable.”

Lee called for a thorough, impartial and credible investigation to be conducted without delay and perpetrators to be held responsible for the alleged crimes that were committed in Rakhine state since 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017, and for the violations that continue today.

She called for the establishment of a UN structure, based in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, for a duration of three years to investigate, document, collect, consolidate, map, and analyse evidence of human rights violations and abuses.

READ MORE:  Myanmar: Senior UN human rights official decries continued ethnic cleansing in Rakhine

The special rapporteur added that the investigative body should maintain and prepare evidence in a master database to support and facilitate impartial, fair and independent international criminal proceedings in national or international courts or tribunals in accordance with international criminal law standards.

Additionally, Lee called for a comprehensive review of actions by the United Nations system in the lead-up to and after the reported attacks of 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates and within the Human Rights Up Front framework.

“The external review should assess whether the UN and international community could have prevented or managed the situation differently that occurred regarding the Rohingya and in Rakhine state, and make recommendations for accountability if appropriate,” she said.

Lee also expressed concerns that as the world’s attention was drawn to the recent crisis in Rakhine state, scant attention had been afforded to continued and escalating violence in Kachin, Shan and other conflict-affected states in Myanmar.

She said against this background, the peace process appeared to be losing its momentum. “Ethnic armed organisations have complained that the reason for this is largely due to the failure of the government and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to take steps to earn the trust of stakeholders,” Lee said.

The special rapporteur said she hoped to make official visits to India and China as part of her preparation to report to the General Assembly later this year, and said she remained hopeful the Myanmar government would revisit its decision and grant her access.

READ MORE:  Atrocities in Rakhine state in Myanmar

Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, South East Asia regional office

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Norman Fernandez

How about doing a fact finding on the crimes and violence by the Rohingyas. And how come the other two ethnic minorities, the Panthays and Zebedis have no problem with the majority Buddhist?