Thursday, 14 December, 2017

Possible 'elements of genocide' in Myanmar: UN rights chief

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Laurie Berry | 06 December, 2017, 02:07

"Can anyone - can anyone - rule out that elements of genocide may be present?"

The global community must now redouble efforts to urge Myanmar's authorities, and in particular its military leadership, to immediately stop the violence and discrimination against Rohingya and other minorities, and allow unfettered access to the UN Fact-Finding Mission, humanitarian aid and independent human rights monitors.

Bangladesh, which along with Saudi Arabia had requested the special session, meanwhile voiced disappointment that Tuesday's resolution was not adopted by consensus, given the severity of the crisis.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam warned that the massive exodus over such a short period was "comparable only with the exodus following the 1994 Rwanda genocide". He also is calling for an worldwide investigation to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes.

After months of hard negotiations, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal in late-November to begin repatriating refugees within two months.

"This is crucial to lay the groundwork for accountability for atrocities against Rohingya women, men and children, as well as to ensure the voluntary, safe and dignified return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees".

Zeid noted that a staggering 626,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August to escape persecution and violence in Myanmar.

"The adoption of today's resolution demonstrates the broad worldwide concern about the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people so brutally impacted by the ongoing crimes against humanity in Myanmar's Rakhine State".

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Ilango said the human rights council "failed to respond adequately" to the unfolding crisis at its September session, and said it could do more "in the face of one of the worst human rights tragedies of our times".

The Myanmar government considers the Rohingya to be stateless immigrants from Bangladesh, despite their generations-long presence in the country.

"Refusal by global as well as local actors to even name the Rohingyas as Rohingyas - to recognise them as a community and respect their right to self-identification - is yet another humiliation, and it creates a shameful paradox: they are denied a name, while being targeted for being who they are", he added.

He was speaking at a special council session Tuesday on the Rohingya's plight.

But the United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, challenged the council, insisting that the possibility of genocide was real.

Yet, he added, prosecutions for alleged acts of violence against them, including sexual violence - whether committed by security forces or civilians - appeared to be extremely rare.

Myanmar does not accept its jurisdiction, meaning the Security Council's unanimous support would be needed to force an investigation.

He said Myanmar authorities had refused to give his office access to Rakhine, and that he had instead sent three teams to Bangladesh to monitor the situation and interview refugees. "Our focus is on facts and circumstances of allegations in Myanmar as a whole since 2011". "We maintain hope that it will be granted early in 2018".

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