UN special rapporteur condemns detention of children in Rakhine

A United Nations human rights expert has expressed concern that at least 13 children have been held in police custody in Rakhine State since a counterinsurgency operation last October, media reports said.

Children should not be “arbitrarily deprived of their liberty”, Ms Yanghee Lee, the special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 15.

“I remind the government that children should be detained strictly as a last resort, for the shortest appropriate period of time, and must be treated with humanity and respect in a manner which takes into account their age,” Lee said.

She also called for an immediate government investigation into the death in custody of one of the 13 children in February.

The investigation needed to determine why the government did not report the death until earlier this month, Lee said.

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In a response, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, U Htin Lynn, did not refer to the issue of detained children, saying only that the Convention of the Rights of the Child applied “equally to all children in Myanmar,” Reuters reported.

Myanmar ratified the convention in 1991.

Children as young as 10 were among hundreds of men detained on charges of consorting with Rohingya insurgents, Reuters reported in March, citing a previously unreported police document.

The document said 13 juveniles were among more than 400 men arrested during the counterinsurgency operation, launched after attacks on border guard posts in northwestern Rakhine last October left nine policemen dead.

Lee also called on Myanmar to “fully cooperate” with a recently established UN fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights violations by the security forces during the operation.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has opposed the mission, saying during a visit to Stockholm on June 12 that it would create “greater hostility” between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine.

“We did not feel it was in keeping with the needs of the region in which we are trying to establish harmony and understanding, and to remove the fears that have kept the two communities apart for so long,” she said after meeting Swedish Prime Minister Mr Stevan Lovfen, Reuters reported.

Aung San Suu Kyi has said she would only accept recommendations from an advisory commission headed by former UN secretary-general Mr Kofi Annan.

The nine-member commission was appointed by the government in August 2016 to propose solutions to conflict, displacement and underdevelopment in Rakhine, one of the poorest states or regions in Myanmar.

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