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UN expert says Myanmar’s crackdown on Rohingya bears ‘hallmarks of genocide’

UN expert says Myanmar’s crackdown on Rohingya bears ‘hallmarks of genocide’
13 Mar
7:39

A top UN rights expert has warned that Myanmar’s crackdown on the persecuted Rohingya bears “the hallmarks of genocide,” insisting that the government should be held accountable for the ongoing crimes against the Muslim community.

The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, told the UN Human Rights Council in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday that she was increasingly convinced the crackdown may amount to genocide. Lee also suggested the term was not strong enough.

“I am becoming more convinced that crimes committed … bear the hallmarks of genocide, and call in the strongest terms for accountability,” media outlets quoted her as saying.

The quest for accountability “must be aimed at the individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups,” Lee added.

“The government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop or condemn these acts must also be held accountable,” she noted.

The South Korean academic, who is investigating Myanmar’s ongoing crackdown against the Rohingya, voiced alarm at “credible reports” of widespread indiscriminate killings, including by burning people alive.

She pointed to “conservative estimates” that at least 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the first month of violence alone.

Elsewhere in her remarks, Lee echoed a call from the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, last week for the creation of a new international probe tasked with preparing criminal indictments over atrocities committed in Myanmar.

The United Nations human rights chief expresses strong suspicion that “acts of genocide” may have been carried out against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Lee also called Monday for a “comprehensive review” of actions taken by the UN before, during and after the latest crackdowns on Rohingya in Myanmar.

“The violence and suffering call not just for accountability but also for self-reflection by the UN, and the question: Could we have prevented this?” she said.

Lee also warned of “extensive bulldozing of former Rohingya villages with huge redevelopment projects already underway in some areas.”

Broken dishes can be seen in the burned out remains of a house in Myo Thu Gyi village, where houses were burnt to the ground near Maungdaw town in northern Rakhine state, Myanmar, August 31, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Meanwhile, Marzuki Darusman, the head of a UN-backed fact-finding mission into violations in Myanmar, told the council that at least 319 villages had been burned since August. “We have seen unsettling photographs and satellite images of Rohingya villages flattened to the ground by bulldozers, erasing all remaining traces of the life and community that once was.”

On Monday, the UK-based rights group Amnesty International accused Myanmar of building security installations on top of razed Rohingya villages, casting doubt on plans to repatriate hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has done virtually nothing to stop the crimes committed by the military against the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi’s government has snubbed and obstructed UN officials who have sought to investigate the situation and it has prevented aid agencies from delivering food, water and medicines to the refugees.

The photo, taken on January 22, 2018, shows a Rohingya refugee child sitting with drying wood for cooking on his roof at Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo by AFP)

Backed by Myanmar’s government and Buddhist majority, the military launched yet another heavy-handed crackdown against the Muslim minority in Rakhine state on August 25, 2017, using a number of armed attacks on military posts as the pretext.

Only in its first month, the clampdown, called by the UN and prominent rights group an “ethnic cleansing campaign,” killed some 6,700 Rohingya Muslims, including more than 700 children, according to Doctors Without Borders.

About 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August last year.

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