UN experts decry detentions, alleged torture of ethnic Rakhine

By AFP

GENEVA — UN rights experts voiced alarm Tuesday at the Myanmar military’s incommunicado detention of Rakhine men and boys, as well as allegations of torture and deaths in custody.

They voiced grave concern at reports that numerous ethnic Rakhine men and boys had recently been taken into custody and held incommunicado for weeks at a time over terrorism allegations, with many reporting they were tortured while detained.

“The practice of incommunicado detention must be immediately brought to an end,” the three experts, who are independent and do not speak for the world body, said in a statement. 

“There must be a credible independent investigation into the allegations of torture and inhuman treatment, deaths in custody, and reliance on forced confessions in cases involving Arakan Army-related allegations,” they said.

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“All perpetrators of such violations must be held accountable.”

The conflict-scarred Rakhine State, the site of a deadly crackdown that in 2017 drove some 740,000 minority Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh, has in recent months seen fierce battles between the military and the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group claiming to fight for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. 

The UN experts pointed to the case of Ko Naing Aung Htun, who was rounded up with others in Kyaukyan village in Buthidaung on August 8, and who was held incommunicado until August 21.

He was allegedly given electric shocks by soldiers until he confessed to having ties to the Arakan Army.

His father, who was finally permitted to visit him on August 22, reported he had sustained injuries to his face and complained of pain in his back, chest and head.

“We are distressed by the use of incommunicado detention where individuals are suspected of being associates of the Arakan Army,” said the experts including Ms Yanghee Lee, a specialist on human rights in Myanmar.

“It is essential for detained people to be able to communicate with the outside world, especially with family members and their lawyer,” they said, stressing that the practice “may facilitate torture”.

They said they were particularly concerned about cases of incommunicado detention in light of reports “regarding at least 15 deaths in custody of men alleged to be associates of the Arakan Army.”

The signatories also included Ms Agnes Callamard, expert on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, and Mr Nils Melzer, expert on torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

They called on the military to make the results of its ongoing investigation into those deaths public, and to hold the perpetrators accountable. 

They also urged a probe into an allegation that Naing Aung Htun was tortured, and said he should receive a fair trial, stressing that any confession made as a result of torture should be excluded from evidence against him.

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