Stop this madness now: UN on Rohingya crisis
“Stop this madness now,” the UN human rights chief demanded at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council today on atrocities committed against the minority Rohingya Muslim population in northern Rakhine State of Myanmar, also known as Burma.
Sympathetic delegates quickly agreed a resolution asked him to conduct urgent, time-bound and detailed inquiries into the immense suffering imposed on the Rohingya.
High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned “widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal” attacks against the Rohingya, as well as decades of discrimination and persecution.
“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?”
“Can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” he asked, in light of decades of statelessness imposed on the Rohingya, including systematic policies of dehumanizing discrimination and segregation, horrific violence and abuse, forced displacement, and systematic destruction of villages, homes, property and livelihoods.
By 2 December 2017, an estimated 626,000 refugees – or more than half the estimated number of Rohingya living in Rakhine State – had fled to Bangladesh since October 2016, and particularly since August 2017.
Zeid 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.
He warned against premature repatriation of any refugees in the absence of sustained human rights monitoring on the ground and without first addressing the root causes of the crisis.
“The world cannot countenance a hasty window-dressing of these shocking atrocities, bundling people back to conditions of severe discrimination and latent violence which seem certain to lead in the future to further suffering, and more movements of people.”
A Human Rights Council resolution ordered Zeid’s office to prepare a comprehensive written report on the situation based on thorough inquiries, including on the level of cooperation and access given to UN investigators.
Myanmar’s government disassociated itself from the resolution, saying that the issues involved were immensely complex and the international community should “avoid fanning the flames on the ground”. Its latest campaign in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by insurgents, it said.