GENEVA (AA): The UN’s human rights chief on Tuesday called for an international criminal investigation into “widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal” attacks on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on a special session of the UN Human Rights Council to “take the appropriate action to stop this madness now”.
“How much do people have to endure before their suffering is acknowledged and their identity and rights are recognized, by their government and by the world?” he told the council in Geneva.
Hussein condemned “decades of statelessness imposed on the Rohingya, policies of dehumanizing discrimination and segregation and the horrific violence and abuse, along with the forced displacement and systematic destruction of villages, homes, property and livelihoods.”
He added: “Can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?
“Ultimately, this is a legal determination only a competent court can make. But the concerns are extremely serious, and clearly call for access to be immediately granted for further verification.”
Hussein said his office had sent three teams to Bangladesh this year to monitor the situation and interview refugees.
“Witnesses reported acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya, including deliberately burning people to death inside their homes; murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls; and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques.”
The UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council had been informed of persistent allegations of serious human rights violations by security forces, 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,” Hussein said.
Marzuki Darusman, the chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said: “Victims and witnesses recounted to us acts of extreme brutality against the Rohingya, especially since August.
“We heard numerous testimonies alleging killings, arbitrary detentions, sexual violence, torture, disappearances, and arson of entire villages. We fear that the number of casualties might be very high indeed.”
– Return to homes
Turkey’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Naci Koru, called for the international community to ensure the safe return of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Myanmar.
He also warned of the risk posed by extremist groups such as Daesh.
“Turkey believes that the situation in Rakhine remains to be an important humanitarian crisis that may have serious implications on the region and beyond,” Koru.
“If the international community does not take a firm stand, this issue can be hijacked by radical elements such as Daesh and engender a serious threat to regional, even global security.”
He added that the international community should help Myanmar and Bagladesh to “ensure… the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees to their homes.”
In the resolution passed 33-3, with nine abstentions, the council “strongly condemned the alleged systematic and gross violations of human rights and abuses committed in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine state, notably against persons belonging to the Rohingya Muslim community and other minorities, including women and children.”
Seperately, Joel Millman, spokesman for the UN migration agency, told a news conference: “It is now over 100 days since an upsurge in violence in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine State forced some 625,792 Rohingya refugees to flee into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“The conditions of the congested settlements, where the refugees are now living, are extremely dire.”
Since Aug. 25, more than 625,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine into Bangladesh, according to the UN.
The refugees have fled a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes, and torched Rohingya villages.
Speaking in September, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.
Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.[Photo: Young children pump water as the Rohingya Muslims live under difficult circumstances at the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on December 3, 2017. Photographer: Fırat Yurdakul/AA]