The European Union on Thursday submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Human Rights Council calling for an immediate international probe of human rights violations by the military against Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The document calls on the Myanmar government under de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to fully cooperate with a fact-finding mission and make available findings of domestic investigations of abuses of Rohingya Muslims by security forces during a crackdown that began last October in the wake of deadly attacks on border guard stations, later blamed on Rohingya militants.
Members of the Human Rights Council will vote on the resolution next week.
The draft resolution was issued the same day as an interim report by a Myanmar government-appointed advisory commission on Rakhine state.
Led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, the commission said the country should immediately start to allow displaced Rohingya to return to their homes in Rakhine and eventually shut down the camps where more than 120,000 have resided following communal violence with Buddhist nationalists in 2012.
The Myanmar government on Thursday issued a statement saying that it agreed with the findings of the commission and would implement the majority of its recommendations.
The report has 30 recommendations, including allowing humanitarian groups and media to visit conflict areas in Rakhine, providing equal access to health care and education, training police, recognizing Rohingya as Myanmar citizens and giving them citizen’s rights, and shutting down refugee camps and resettling the Rohingya.
“The government of Myanmar will be happy to cooperate with the advisory commission in its endeavors to assist us in finding viable and sustainable solutions to the complex situation in Rakhine state,” the statement said.
Rights groups sound off
Rights groups on Friday echoed the calls of the European Union and put pressure on Myanmar and the United States government to support the establishment of an independent investigative body.
London-based Amnesty International put pressure on Myanmar to implement the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations.
“The authorities must immediately act on the Rakhine Commission’s recommendations to grant humanitarian access, end the media blackout in northern Rakhine state, and ensure the perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a statement.
The rights organization also took the commission’s recommendations to task by not including language ensuring “full respect for the rights of the Rohingya” who are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denied Myanmar citizenship and other basic rights in the country.
The commission’s mandate does not include investigating recent human rights violations by security forces.
“Unfortunately, the commission’s recommendations do not go far enough to address the increasingly dire situation on the ground,” Patel said. “There is much more the authorities can and should do, including lifting restrictions on freedom of movement for the Rohingya and other Muslims.”
Southeast Asia-based Fortify Rights urged the U.S. Congress and the administration of President Donald Trump to support the establishment of an international inquiry into possible crimes against humanity in Rakhine state.
The group told U.S. lawmakers at a hearing on Friday on Capitol Hill in Washington that state security forces have committed human rights violations “in a consistent manner in disparate locations” in northern Rakhine state during the crackdown which ended in February.
Some of the more than 75,000 Rohingya who fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape accused security forces of burning homes, killing people indiscriminately, torturing residents, and raping women and girls.
“The U.S. is a highly influential actor in Myanmar,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights, who testified at the hearing. “We believe a strong international inquiry will bolster Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration, stem refugee outflows, and help end military impunity for serious human rights abuses.”
In a February report, the U.N. said attacks by the military and police against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state were widespread and systematic and could amount to crimes against humanity.
Yanghee Lee, the U.N.’s special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, told the Human Rights Council on Monday that the government may be trying to expel the Rohingya from the country by dismantling their homes and conducting a household survey where those absent may be eliminated from a list that could be the only legal proof of their status in Myanmar.
Though the Myanmar government has denied most of the allegations of abuse of the Rohingya by security forces in northern Rakhine, it set up an up an investigation commission in December to look into the violence.
Members of the commission are now traveling to Bangladesh and Rakhine’s Kyikanpyin village, where border guard stations were attacked last Oct. 9, to check with locals to see if Rakhine authorities have done what the commission asked them to do during a previous meeting, said commission member Saw Thalay Saw on Friday.
“We have heard that there are some people who fled from Myanmar—that’s why we are going to Bangladesh to investigate what happened to these people to check both sides in order to get complete information,” she said.
Rights groups have criticized the investigation commission and two others set up by the Myanmar army and police to look into reports of atrocities against the Rohingya during the security operations.
In an interim report in January, the investigation commission said it had found no evidence of genocide or religious persecution of Rohingya Muslims living in the region, and insufficient evidence of rape. It also said it was still probing accusations of arson, torture, and illegal arrests.
In February, the commission completed another fact-finding mission in the affected areas to investigate the U.N.’s allegations of human rights violations.
Reported by Kyaw Thu and Waiyan Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.