Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
Culture&Arts | By Hattie Nash

Myanmar's Rohingya Actions May Be Genocide, UN Official Says

Myanmar's Rohingya Actions May Be Genocide, UN Official Says

Diplomats and human rights groups said the council's special session, convened with unusually wide backing from council members and cross-regional support, underscored Myanmar's worldwide isolation on the issue and the pressure on its rulers to alleviate the crisis.

Bangladesh is moving ahead with a controversial plan to move Rohingya refugees to a low-lying island, with construction of facilities to begin "very soon". On a recent visit to Myanmar, Pope Francis did not publicly use the word "Rohingya" - and drew criticism for that decision.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that none of the 626,000 Rohingya who have fled violence since August should be repatriated to Burma unless there was robust monitoring on the ground. "Can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?", he told the 47-member state forum in Geneva.

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Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh's junior foreign affairs minister, told the session in Geneva that his country was hosting almost one million "Myanmar nationals" following summary executions and rapes "as a weapon of persecution".

Be that as it may, al-Hussein has urged the United Nations to establish a reformed mechanism to allow criminal prosecutions of those guilty of the offense, and called for a new approach to prosecutions that will permit them to be charged in the International Criminal Court. The UN has a detailed definition of genocide, which it describes as acts committed with an "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group".

The UN first defined it in the in 1948. But individuals are infrequently charged with genocide, and component crimes, including murder, forced deportation, torture, and sexual violence, can also be classified as ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, which have not been specifically defined under global law and therefore aren't prosecutable.

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The Rohingya are a stateless minority who have long experienced persecution in Myanmar. It says they migrated illegally from Bangladesh so should not be listed as one of the country's ethnic groups. After the latest wave of arrivals it now hosts more than a million Rohingya. "But it needs to ensure that its rhetoric is matched by its will to prevent further mistreatment, forced returns, and assaults to the human rights and dignity of the Rohingya", Laila Matar, HRW's senior United Nations advocate said in a statement.

The fact-finding team has thus far been refused access to Myanmar, but the team's chairman, Marzuki Darusman, said it had still been able to collect significant information from refugees and had heard many allegations of "extreme severity", including genocide.

Bangladesh also denies they are its citizens.

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