THE UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has launched an urgent fact-finding mission to inquire into alleged human-rights abuses, including rapes and child murders, of the Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar (Burma).
The decision to launch the investigation was adopted without a vote at a meeting of the Council at the end of last month.
A government official in Myanmar, however, condemned the mission as “unacceptable”. India and China have also dissociated themselves from the investigation.
In February, the UN published a report based on interviews with members of the Rohingya community who had fled across the border to Bangladesh. They alleged dozens of gang rapes and killings, of babies and young children, among others, by security forces of Myanmar.
The worst-affected areas are said to be in the northern Rakhine State, where nine police officers died in an attack on two border-guard posts in October last year. The attack was blamed on the Rohingya, and a military offensive was launched in retaliation. UN investigators who collected interviews with escaping civilians said that the military had indicated to them that it was conducting “area-clearance operations” in the region.
The UN estimates that 66,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past six months.
The representative for Myanmar, speaking at the UNHRC, said that the situation in Rakhine State was stabilising, and that people were returning, and urged the international community not to intervene, but to let Myanmar choose the best course of action to address the situation.
The State Counsellor for Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, established an independent commission to find a solution to the conflict last year. The nine-person panel includes the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
At the launch of the Commission, Mr Annan insisted that they were not in Myanmar to investigate accusations against the differing sides, or to carry out a human-rights investigation, but to “support development in Rakhine State” (News, 16 September 2016).
The charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide has welcomed the UN’s new resolution and investigation.
Its chief executive, Mervyn Thomas, said that the “groundbreaking” UNHRC resolution sent “an important message to the people in Burma that the international community is committed to addressing the harrowing situation in the country, in particular Rakhine State.
“We are disappointed that the government of Burma has dissociated itself from this resolution, and we urge the government to collaborate fully with the fact-finding mission and to provide full and unrestricted access to all areas — in particular Rakhine State, but also Kachin and Shan States.
“Although the attention of the international community is focused on the horrific reports from Rakhine State, we believe reports of grave human-rights abuses in Kachin and northern Shan States also merit urgent attention.”
Amnesty International says that the Rohingya Muslims are one of the persecuted minorities in the world. There are estimated to be one million of them living in Rakhine State.