Warning of recurring genocide in Myanmar

A young Rohingya refugee carries a child while walking at a camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: CNS photo/Reuters

UNITED NATIONS (UCAN): The head of the United Nations (UN) Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, told the General Assembly’s human rights committee on October 22 that up to 600,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority still living in the country are at “serious risk” of becoming victims of another genocide.

Darusman told the gathering that continued discrimination, segregation, and restricted movement imposed on the Rohingya, as well as denial of access to education health care and jobs, had worsened the situation in Rakhine State.

At least 700,000 Rohingya people fled to relative safety in neighbouring Bangladesh to escape mass killings, rapes and the destruction of homes in the wake of reprisals following an insurgent attack in August 2017.

In a report filed in September, Darusman said that Myanmar should be held to account for alleged genocide committed against the Rohingya.

“There is a strong inference of continued genocidal intent on the part of the state in relation to the Rohingya and there is a serious risk of genocide recurring,” Darusman told the rights committee on October 22, according to the Associated Press.

“Myanmar is failing in its obligations under the Genocide Convention to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalising and punishing genocide,” he said.

Darusman said his team had transferred 1,227 interviews with victims and witnesses to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar another specially established UN body, along with a list of more than 150 people suspected of committing international crimes.

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He called for international support to ensure a case against Myanmar is brought before the International Court of Justice for breaching the 1948 Genocide Convention.

He said that additional measures, including the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal like the UN set up for similar crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda should also be considered.

Myanmar’s UN ambassador, Hau Do Suan, countered saying that the fact-finding mission was flawed and took a one-sided view based on “misleading information and secondary sources.”

He said the situation of other ethnic minorities in Rakhine State was completely overlooked by the UN team.

The ambassador said Myanmar was serious that those who committed gross human rights violations “causing the large outflow of displaced persons to Bangladesh must be held accountable.”

Hau said, “However, we will never accept any attempt to exert unjust and unwarranted political pressures under the pretext of accountability.” 

However, the UN’s independent investigator on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, told the assembly that the Independent Commission of Inquiry formed by Myanmar’s government “does not represent a possible end to this impunity.”

She pointed out, “It has not produced a single report after nearly 15 months,” adding, “Discrimination against religious minorities continues unabated. I am informed of 27 villages which describe themselves as ‘Muslim free,’ banning Muslims from entry.”

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Darusman and Lee have both said that is still unsafe for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to return to Myanmar.

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