UN launches international investigation into Rakhine crackdown

By SEAN GLEESON | FRONTIER

YANGON — The United Nations will establish an international investigation into human rights abuses in Rakhine State, the Human Rights Council agreed Friday in Geneva.

The council’s 47 members resolved without vote to launch the fact-finding mission and renew the annual mandate of Ms Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar.

The international investigation was included in a European Union-sponsored resolution on Myanmar’s human rights record that was approved on Friday, the final day of the Human Rights Council session.

Some council members had pushed for a UN Commission of Inquiry into allegations of abuses in northern Rakhine State, while China and India had opposed an international investigation altogether and distanced themselves from the final resolution.

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After it was adopted, Myanmar’s delegation at the council denounced the resolution as “not acceptable”, according to Reuters.

Speaking to the BBC this month, Lee said that the actions of security forces in responding to attacks on police and border guard posts last October likely constituted “crimes against humanity”.

Based on interviews with more than 200 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh after the violence began, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found that the “area clearance operations” of Myanmar’s security forces was likely responsible for hundreds of deaths.

More than 40 percent of those the OHCHR interviewed reported being subjected to or witnessing sexual assault.

An analysis of satellite footage by Human Rights Watch the month after the security crackdown began found that more than 1,000 structures had been burnt down and concluded that nearby deployments of the Myanmar military were responsible.

“The announcement of an independent international fact-finding mission to look into human rights violations in Myanmar is long overdue,” Amnesty Southeast Asia director Ms Champa Patel said in a press statement. “The Myanmar government should welcome the fact-finding mission and assist it in every possible way with its work.”

Three separate Myanmar investigations are underway into the security crackdown in Rakhine. The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan, has expanded its remit to include responses to last year’s violence.

A second is chaired by former general and incumbent Vice President U Myint Swe, while a separate investigation is under the auspices of the Rakhine State Hluttaw.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, who had fled across the border after security operations began last year, this week told the Dhaka Tribune that representatives of Myint Swe’s Maungdaw Investigation Commission had called them liars and refused to listen to their testimony.

Human rights organisations had earlier called for the creation of a Commission of Inquiry, the UN’s top-level investigation mechanism for human rights abuses.

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