Myanmar Likely Committed Crimes against Humanity against Rohingya

Elias Hubbard
December 6, 2017

At the special Human Rights Council session on the Rohingya crisis, United Nations rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said security forces have been involved in burning people in their homes, murdering children and adults, widespread rape of women and girls, and torching of schools and mosques.

Earlier, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said actions by Myanmar's government to "dehumanize" the Rohingya are likely to fan more violence and draw in communities from across the region.

"Given all of this, can anyone, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?" asked Zeid.

Zeid slammed "widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal" attacks against the Rohingya, as well as policies that had dehumanised and segregated the minority, and left it wallowing in statelessness for decades.

With his government in the spotlight, the ambassador said the priority should be on returning displaced people to Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Zeid's use of the term "genocide" represents an escalation in allegations against Myanmar, which the United Nations and United States have already accused of conducting an ethnic cleansing operation, pushing out over 600,000 of the estimated 1.1. million Rohingya who lived in Rakhine State.

Tuesday's session was held at the request of Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, with the support of 33 council members and more than 40 observer states.

These crimes had been "perpetrated by Myanmar security forces and extremist Buddhist vigilantes", Alam said, calling for an end to what he called "xenophobic rhetoric...including from higher echelons of the government and the military".

However, while ethnic cleansing is not a designated offence under worldwide law, genocide is the most serious of atrocity crimes.

Instead, the Council dispatched three teams to Bangladesh to conduct interviews with Rohingya and other groups in sprawling refugee camps around Cox's Bazar and elsewhere in southeastern Bangladesh. "The Myanmar authorities continue to downplay the seriousness of the reports, while refusing to cooperate with the fact-finding mission created by this Council".

The government of Myanmar rejects all allegations of ethnic cleansing and human rights violations.

"The U.N. resolution makes clear that the global community retains a watchful eye over the plight of the Rohingya and demands action", said Laila Matar, senior U.N. advocate at Human Rights Watch, in a printed statement.

In November, the U.N. Security Council failed to pass a resolution condemning the violence in Myanmar's northern Rakhine and instead issued a statement after acquiescing to strong objections by China. But rights groups say the conditions are not in place to ensure safe, voluntary and dignified returns.

Zeid also urged the Human Rights Council to consider asking the UN General Assembly to authorize another UN investigation into abuses and violence against the Rohingya.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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