GENEVA September 26, 2017 – Seven UN experts* have joined together to call on the Government of Myanmar to stop all violence against the minority Muslim Rohingya community and halt the ongoing persecution and serious human rights violations which the High Commissioner for Human Rights has described as an apparent textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
The call comes a month after attacks in Rakhine State against 30 police outposts and the regimental headquarters in Taungala village, and subsequent indiscriminate counter-terror operations.
“There have been credible allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses committed against the Rohingya, including extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement, as well as the burning and destruction of over 200 Rohingya villages and tens of thousands of homes,” the experts said.
“We understand that State Counsellor Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi in her diplomatic briefing on 19 September had encouraged the international community to learn along with the Myanmar Government the possible reasons behind the current exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh,” the experts said, noting that about 430,000 people had reportedly crossed into Bangladesh in the past few weeks.
The experts stressed: “No one chooses, especially not in the hundreds of thousands, to leave their homes and ancestral land, no matter how poor the conditions, to flee to a strange land to live under plastic sheets and in dire circumstances except in life-threatening situations. Despite violence allegedly perpetrated by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the whole Rohingya population should not have to pay the price.
“We call on Aung San Suu Kyi to meet the Rohingya personally in Rakhine State as well as in Cox’s Bazar to talk to those who have fled, as well as those who have stayed, as she says the Myanmar Government is interested in doing.”
The experts further noted that even the Government-appointed Rakhine Advisory Commission led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had concluded in its final report that “protracted statelessness and profound discrimination have made the [Rohingya] Muslim community particularly vulnerable to human rights violations”. It also found that successive governments since independence, particularly after the military coup of 1962, had “adopted legal and administrative measures that progressively eroded the political and civil rights of the Muslim communities in Rakhine State”.
“While it is commendable that the Government appears intent on implementing the Commission’s recommendations, including those related to the Rohingya’s citizenship rights, this will largely be an empty gesture now that the Myanmar military and security forces have driven out almost half of the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine and the Government has indicated that they can return only if they have proof of their nationality. Moreover, due to the mass burning of Rohingya villages, there is no home left for many to return to,” the experts said.
“We are equally alarmed by the Government’s apparent acquiescence in incitement of hatred and the condoning of intimidation and attacks against Rohingya families by other ethnic and religious groups. All violence aimed at the general population, including internally displaced people, must immediately cease,” the experts stressed.
“Myanmar should provide uninterrupted humanitarian access to international organizations to assist tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of internally displaced people in Rakhine State. It should further ensure full and unfettered access of human rights monitors including the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission for an independent and impartial assessment of the situation on the ground.
“The Myanmar Government should cooperate with all international aid organizations, rather than accusing them of supporting terrorism in their efforts to discharge their responsibilities to provide humanitarian aid and assistance to populations in need,” they added.
“UN member states need to go beyond statements and start taking concrete action to stop the military and security forces from accomplishing their so-called ‘unfinished business’ of getting rid of the Rohingya minority from Rakhine State,” the experts concluded.
(*) The experts: Ms. Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Ms. Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons; Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
UN Human Rights, country page: Myanmar