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UN Commission of Inquiry for Myanmar

By Aman Ullah

Ms. Yanghee Lee, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, appealed in her report for formation of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the abuses in Myanmar. She urged to the 47-member body of UN Human Rights Council to establish a COI “to investigate the systematic, structural, and institutional discrimination in policy, law and practice, as well [as] long-standing persecution, against the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State.”

According to her, the probe should focus on violence in 2012, 2014 and the army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine since October, which came in retaliation for attacks by militants on police border posts. Terming “may amount to crimes against humanity”, she charged Myanmar’s security forces of murder, rape and torture in the Rakhine operation since October.

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. The 34th session of the Human Rights Council is going on from 27 February to 24 March 2017. The said COI must be setup through a resolution approved by council members, which could be adopted before the end of this ongoing session.

Commissions of Inquiry (COI)

United Nations mandated commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions are increasingly being used to respond to situations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, whether protracted or resulting from sudden events, and to promote accountability for such violations and counter impunity. These international investigative bodies have been established by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
For example,
• The Commission of Experts on the former Yugoslavia (1992-1994), established by Security Council resolution 780 (1992) of 6 October 1992, and the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004), established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1564 (2004) of 18 September 2004.
• The General Assembly, by resolution 52/135 of 12 December 1997, set up the Group of Experts for Cambodia to examine requests for assistance in responding to past serious violations.
• The International Commission of Inquiry on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (2011-2012), established by Human Rights Council resolution S-15/1 of 25 February 2011.
• The International Commission of Inquiry on Guinea (2009), established by the UN Secretary-General on 28 October 2009 (S/2009/556).
• In 2005, the High Commissioner dispatched a fact-finding mission on events in Andijan, Uzbekistan, and in 2008 an OHCHR fact-finding mission was sent to look into post-electoral violence in Kenya.
• The International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor set up in 1999 by Commission on Human Rights resolution 1999/S-4/1 of 27 September 1999 to look into post-consultation violence.

Over the past 20 years, many commissions/missions have been established to assess some of the most serious situations of human rights and humanitarian law violations across the world: in the former Yugoslavia, Darfur, Timor-Leste, Lebanon and Guinea, and the most recent international human rights investigations in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, the occupied Palestinian territory, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and the Central African Republic.

As part of its core work, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) provides expertise and support to commissions and missions. This includes developing guidance, advising on investigation methodology and applicable international law, developing investigation tools, setting up secretariats with specialist staff, providing administrative, logistical and security support, undertaking reviews and lessons learned exercises. Since 1992, OHCHR has provided support to and deployed close to 50 commissions and missions.

Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council

The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. The system of Special Procedures is a central element of the United Nations human rights machinery and covers all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political, and social.
In the context of the 2011 review of its work and functioning, the Human Rights Council reaffirmed the obligation of States to cooperate with the Special Procedures, and the integrity and independence of Special Procedures. It also reaffirmed the principles of cooperation, transparency and accountability and the role of the system of Special Procedures in enhancing the capacity of the Human Rights Council to address human rights situations.

Member States confirmed their strong opposition to reprisals against persons cooperating with the United Nations and its human rights mechanism and representatives. The Council further recognized the importance of ensuring transparent, adequate and equitable funding to support all Special Procedures according to their specific needs.
Special procedures are either an individual (called “Special Rapporteur” or “Independent Expert”) or a working group composed of five members, one from each of the five United Nations regional groupings: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Western group. The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and members of the Working Groups are appointed by the Human Rights Council and serve in their personal capacities.

United Nations special rapporteur

A special rapporteur is a person who is given to individuals working on behalf of the United Nations (UN) within the scope of “special procedure” mechanisms who have a specific country or thematic mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The term “rapporteur” is a French-derived word for an investigator who reports to a deliberative body.

The mandate by the United Nations has been to “examine, monitor, advise, and publicly report” on human rights problems through “activities undertaken by special procedures, including responding to individual complaints, psychological operations and manipulation via the controlled media and academia, conducting studies, providing advice on technical cooperation at the country level, and engaging in general promotional activities.” However, since 2008, the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures simply calls these individuals mandate-holders.

Appointed by the Human Rights Council of the UN, these mandate-holders act independently of governments and as such play an important role in monitoring sovereign nations and democratically elected governments and policies. They do not receive any financial compensation for their work from the United Nations, though they receive personnel and logistical support from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and are often backed by charities and corporations.

Special Rapporteurs often conduct fact-finding missions to countries to investigate allegations of human rights violations. They can only visit countries that have agreed to invite them.

Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

1. Mr. Yozo Yokota (1992-1996),
2. Mr. Rajsoomer Lallah (1996-2000)
3. Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (2001-2008)
4. Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana (2008-2014 ),
5. Ms. Yanghee Lee (2014- till)

Commission after Commission

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group in Myanmar, have been systematically disenfranchised and increasingly marginalized, including through denial of citizenship and restriction of movement. Over the years successive UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar have reported serious continuing human rights violations against this community.

Since 9 October 2016, Myanmar’s security forces have carried out large-scale attacks against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung Townships as part of ‘clearance operations’ in response to attacks on three police border posts by armed assailants. These ‘clearance operations’ violate numerous provisions of international human rights law.

The ‘clearance operations’ involved human rights violations against women, men, and children, including: extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; torture and other ill-treatment, notably rape and other crimes of sexual violence; arbitrary arrests and detention; forced displacement; and destruction and looting of homes, food, and other property.

UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human rights (OHCHR) have chronicled extensive human rights violations by the security forces, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, other forms of torture and ill-treatment, destruction of property and denial of humanitarian access. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates more than 69,000 people have fled from Rakhine State for Bangladesh since October, while 92,000 people remain internally displaced in Myanmar.

Following a 12-day visit to Myanmar in January, Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee noted allegations of ongoing human rights abuses in Rakhine State. She also raised concerns regarding widespread fear amongst civilians of potential reprisals as punishment for speaking out. In her upcoming report to the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, she will call for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the Rohingya situation. Moreover, on 3 February the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report based on interviews with Rohingya who had fled from Myanmar.

The UN report has identified arson as a major cause of death. Testimonies collected from villages convey horrifying reports of women and children burned alive in their homes by soldiers. Numerous people claim the army deliberately set fire to homes and, in some particularly tragic cases, set fire to buildings and then pushed people into them. Eyewitnesses report several separate instances where both non-Rohingya villagers and the army locked several families of Rohingya Muslims into buildings and set fire to them. The report detailed “widespread and systematic” attacks against the Rohingya and reiterated “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity” – as had already been concluded by the High Commissioner in June 2016.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee both recently recommended the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the situation in Rakhine State.

Myanmar’s government has flatly denied allegations that abuses have been committed, but has prevented independent journalists and aid workers from accessing parts of northern Rakhine. Under international pressure they are going to form commission after commission to investigate allegations of human rights violations; however none of these commissions are independent or credible.
Since October 2016, four official commissions have been set up to investigate the situation in Rakhine State. Regrettably, all of them lack the independence, impartiality, human rights and technical expertise, and mandate necessary to conduct a credible and effective investigation:

• On 1 December 2016, Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw established a 13-member investigation commission led by Vice-President Myint Swe, a former army general, to probe “the truth” in relation to violent attacks that occurred on 9 October and 12-13 November 2016 in Maungdaw Township. Its members include the current Chief of Police and a number of former government officials. The commission’s preliminary findings, published on 3 January 2017, dismissed claims of misconduct by Myanmar security forces, having found insufficient evidence to take legal action in response to alleged violations, religious persecution, and allegations of genocide. As the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng noted on 6 February, this commission “is not a credible option” to investigate abuses against Rohingya.
• Two commissions, formed by the army and the Ministry of Home Affairs (also controlled by the military) on 9 February and 11 February 2017 respectively, have been tasked with investigating human rights violations committed by military and police personnel during the ‘clearance operations’. These commissions, made up of military and police officers, lack the independence and impartiality necessary to investigate violations committed by security forces.
• An 11-member commission appointed by the Rakhine State Parliament on 24 October 2016, composed predominantly of ethnic Rakhine members from the Arakan National Party (ANP), was tasked with investigating the 9 October attacks on the three police border post but excluded any probe into human rights violations against the Rohingya population. The commission’s chairman, ANP MP Aung Win, claimed in an interview with the BBC that rape of Rohingya women could not have occurred because they are “very dirty” and “they are not attractive so neither the local Buddhist men or the soldiers are interested in them.”

An advisory commission was also established by Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on 24 August 2016. The commission consists of nine members, including three international experts with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as its chair. However, its mandate is limited to making general recommendations to the government to “resolve protracted issues” in Rakhine State and both Annan and the Myanmar government have affirmed the commission will not investigate reports of human rights violations.

Moreover, another earlier commission, set up by then-President Thein Sein in August 2012 to investigate unrest in Rakhine State, failed to lead to accountability for human rights violations committed during successive waves of violence between June and October 2012. Approximately 140,000 people, predominantly Rohingya, were internally displaced and at least 200 were killed during the unrest. Given the inability or unwillingness of these commissions to establish facts and hold perpetrators accountable, and the fact that national judicial and law enforcement authorities lack the both the independence and technical capacity to deal with such situations.

All of them lack the independence, impartiality, human rights and technical expertise, and mandate necessary to conduct a credible and effective investigation. In according to Matthew Smith, founder of campaign group Fortify Rights, “The army has committed atrocity crimes and this commission is attempting a whitewash. Ministries led by Suu Kyi have charted the path of denial, waging a shameful propaganda campaign.” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, termed these as ‘whitewash mechanism’.

End of Mission Statement by Young Lee On 24 February 2017

I would like to first thank the Government of Bangladesh for allowing me to undertake a visit to the country, particularly to Cox’s Bazar. I had initially hoped to undertake this mission immediately after my last visit to Myanmar in January but for various reasons, it had to be delayed until now. As such, findings from this visit have not been included in the written report being presented to the Human Rights Council as I had to complete that report prior to this visit. I will raise key points from this visit during my oral presentation to the Human Rights Council on 13 March.

As I highlighted in my statement at the end of my last visit to Myanmar, reprisals were a major concern for me. While I did have the opportunity to meet and talk to Rohingya villagers in my visit to the north of Rakhine State in January, I was mindful of the possible retaliation against those speaking with me in Myanmar. Therefore, it was important for me to seek the opportunity to meet the Rohingya population who fled to Bangladesh from the post 9 October violence.
I would like to thank specifically the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the International Organization for Migration as well as the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh for their assistance and support in facilitating my visit. My deep appreciation also goes to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well as other international and local actors on the ground for their support and cooperation.

I must acknowledge and pay tribute to the generosity and compassion of the host communities in Cox’s Bazar in providing shelter and sharing their personal – in many cases limited – resources to help the Rohingya population who fled from Myanmar in fear. Most of all, I am grateful and humbled by the resilience and strength shown by the members of the Rohingya population whom I met in Cox’s Bazar. I met several groups of Rohingya women and men, and their children including one with a disability, from several of the villages most affected by the security operations which ensued after the attacks against the Myanmar Border Guard Police facilities on 9 October 2016.

Hearing personal accounts of what they endured before making the difficult decision to cross into Bangladesh helped to complete the picture. And I am saddened to report that what I heard during my visit to Bangladesh was worse than I had anticipated. The magnitude of violence that these families witnessed and experienced was far more extensive than I had originally speculated.

Previously I had expressed my incredulity over the official reasons given for the burning down of houses. I refused to accept Government arguments that the Rohingya people were willing to burn down their own houses to be without a home and potentially displaced for five years or more, like those in Sittwe, for the sake of propaganda or in the hope that international actors would help build them better houses when the Government has hindered these actors from fully discharging their respective mandates, including in the delivery of food and provision of medical assistance.

This visit, I am unable to believe that women with very young children or who were heavily pregnant would have made the journey across from Myanmar into Bangladesh without very compelling reasons. To go without the guarantees and familiarity of their own homes as well as support of familial and social networks under such circumstances can only mean an enormous upheaval in their lives.

There was not a single account I heard which was not harrowing. I was especially affected by a mother who repeatedly expressed regret for mistakenly thinking that her son had been brought out from their burning house. She heard him screaming for her and managed to save his life but burn scars have been seared onto him – scars which I saw with my own eyes. One woman lost sight in both eyes due to the fire caused by the security forces personnel and had to rely on the help of others to be able to flee to Bangladesh in search of refuge. Destitute and having recently lost the use of her eyes, she fears what the future may hold for her.

A boy with a hearing impairment was desperately making gestures to tell me how both his parents died in front of him, first beaten, stamped on, and then shot to death. One man who had hidden himself when news spread that the security forces were arbitrarily arresting male villagers was left guilt-ridden for his mistaken belief that the women left behind would be spared from harm. His wife, who was seven-months’ pregnant, had been at his sister-in-law’s home as the latter was giving birth. When the security forces were unable to find male members of the village, they apparently raided all the houses looking for them. Seven members from that family were fatally shot including his wife, sister-in-law and a four-year old girl. Fortunately, the newborn survived.

I heard allegation after allegation of horrific events like these – slitting of throats, indiscriminate shootings, setting alight houses with people tied up inside and throwing very young children into the fire, as well as gang rapes and other sexual violence.

When men, young and old, broke down and cried in front of me, I could feel that the terrible things that had happened to them, had broken their spirit, and shattered their hope in the world.
Yet in spite of what they experienced, over and again I heard that what they want is to be accepted as Rohingya, to be able to go back to their home country, to be treated equally, to be treated as human beings. There are some who said they want justice, and when I probed what they meant by justice, most said they want their homes returned to them and to be able to live in peace. One said, “I want justice for those who were murdered and raped; I want those who murdered and raped brought to justice.”

In my report to the Human Rights Council which I will present in March, and which should be available online in the next two weeks, I highlight – in addition to the alleged human rights violations occurring within the context of the security operations that followed the 9 October attacks – how the Government of Myanmar appears to have taken, and continues to take, actions which discriminate against the Rohingya and make their lives even more difficult.
They instructed the Rohingya people to dismantle their own homes arguing that the structures had been built without permission; yet did not offer any alternative housing or forms of redress nor the opportunity to challenge such orders. They made the Rohingya villagers remove the fencing around their homes arguing security reasons, causing women particularly to feel more vulnerable as bathing facilities are normally hidden behind these fences.

It appears that the regular conduct of the household list survey was moved up from the period of the year it is normally done, possibly to hold it at a time they knew many Rohingya people, who had fled the country in fear, would not be at home during the survey. Reportedly, in several cases when a Rohingya resident has been found not to be at home, s/he has been struck off the list which also means losing the only remaining legal link to Myanmar for many of the Rohingya people in northern Rakhine.

Currently, a citizenship verification exercise under the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law is underway; and despite the understanding that the process should be a voluntary one, I have reports of the Rohingya people being forced to apply for the National Verification Cards; as otherwise, they are not allowed to receive food assistance, to move from one point to another within a restricted and demarcated area, to fish for their livelihood, or to carry out work as a national staff member of an international organization.

In the meantime, a strict curfew (albeit of a recently shortened duration) is still applied in the areas that the majority of the Rohingya live; their freedom of movement is restricted; they have limited access to their rights to education, healthcare, and livelihoods. They continue to be kept segregated from the Rakhine community in many areas while anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric are left mostly unchecked by the authorities and in some instances emboldened.
After decades of systematic and institutionalized discrimination, and long-standing persecution, no one should be surprised that some could turn to radical measures. More so after the general Rohingya population is collectively punished through the security forces’ operations for the actions potentially committed by a small fraction of the population.

It is a tragic irony that after implementing policies, laws and rules that discriminate and persecute this population, giving the pretext for some extreme elements to attack the security forces, more cruel actions are taken against this population generally in the name of national security and protection of state sovereignty. In other words, the 9 October attacks appear to have given the security forces the perfect cover to amplify and accelerate actions they had previously carried out through policies, rules and laws – with the apparent objective of expelling the Rohingya population from Myanmar altogether.

After almost five months, the Government finally announced the withdrawal of the military presence in the north of Rakhine State. Only after months of having been cautioned and warned by the international community of the increasing number of serious allegations of human rights violations occurring in these areas consequent to the security operations. And only after months of the Government, defending their position with few reservations, (were) denying and dismissing these allegations as fabrications.

Yet a video was circulated in late December and early January of Myanmar Police Force personnel beating up those rounded up for questioning. Even then, the authorities claimed this was an isolated event which I still doubt very much. Now it seems an investigation has been opened into several cases of custodial deaths. I had in fact raised such cases during my visit to Myanmar and the response which was given – that the deaths were related to their pre-existing medical conditions – appears now to be called into question. And despite the Myanmar Government’s announcement that the security operations have ceased in northern Rakhine, I am informed that there is still heavy presence of military there.

I have also received allegations of reprisals related to the interaction of the Rohingya villagers with either the foreign delegations, the UN/diplomatic mission and journalists, or the Government appointed commissions. One male villager told me how he tried to approach the UN/diplomatic mission and was stopped and detained by the military, and only released after a member of that delegation asked that he and others detained alongside him be released. He nonetheless fled Myanmar fearing he would be blacklisted.

In another instance, a female villager reportedly fled Myanmar after being pursued by the authorities after informing visiting journalists that she had been raped. In yet another case, someone who responded to questions posed by the military investigating team was instead apparently accused of being a suspected attacker. In fear of being arrested, this person also fled. Generally, I also heard how the military would warn villagers against coming out or approaching visiting dignitaries.

I was made aware during my visit to Bangladesh of how there had been previous phases of large numbers of the Rohingya population fleeing Myanmar, and that there are about 33,000 registered Rohingya refugees from the ‘91-92’ phase who are located in two registered camps, in Nayapara and Kutupalong. In addition to these registered refugees, there are reportedly about 300-500,000 undocumented Rohingya people of which tens of thousands are located in two makeshift settlements in Leda and Kutupalong. I have also visited Balukhali where temporary shelters have started to emerge and where many so-called new arrivals reportedly have tended to gravitate towards. As had been previously reported, about 70,000 more Rohingya appear to have crossed into Bangladesh since the 9 October attacks.

I understand that the Government of Bangladesh has concerns about creating conditions that may become a “pull factor” and that its position has always been for the Myanmar Government to take responsibility for the Rohingya population. I agree that the root causes of the situation of the Rohingya population lie with the Government of Myanmar. And, for these new groups of undocumented Rohingya to arrive in such a large number over a brief period of time in recent months and in dire circumstances – many with just the clothes on their backs, bearing violence-related injuries – this clearly indicates a “push factor” at hand.

I appreciate that this new caseload has caused additional stress and burden on the existing system in Bangladesh already providing humanitarian assistance to the earlier registered and undocumented Rohingya population in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Government’s extension of humanitarian assistance to the recent arrivals should also be commended.

However, I am compelled to advocate on behalf of the Rohingya that I met and whose homes and living quarters I visited in Balukhali, Leda, Nayapara and Kutupalong for the Government of Bangladesh to take greater efforts to improve their living conditions and for the international community to support such efforts.

More can, should and must be done to end the continued suffering of the Rohingya population. In particular, I urge for the Government of Myanmar to immediately cease the discrimination that the community continues to face in the country, to act to prevent any further serious rights violations and to conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into those already alleged to have occurred. We all owe it to those I have met and their fellow community members to do everything in our power to ensure this is done and to give the Rohingya people reason to hope again.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (A/HRC/34/67), dated: 1 March 2017.

[This is an abstract of the advance unedited version of report, which is submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, to the Human Rights Council pursuant to resolution A/HRC/RES/31/24, further to her reports to the Human Rights Council in March 2016 (A/HRC/31/71) and to the General Assembly in August 2016 (A/71/361). Special Rapporteur conducted her fifth official visit to Myanmar from 9 to 20 January 2017. The Government only allowed for a 12-day visit during which she travelled to parts of Kachin, Mon and Rakhine States as well as to Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, although she requested 14 days. ]

On the Situation of Human Rights

 The Special Rapporteur and her predecessors have previously highlighted that the Citizenship Law (1982) is not in line with international standards, particularly relating to discriminatory provisions for granting of citizenship on the basis of ethnicity or race. On 27 December 2016, the State Counsellor’s Office issued a notification detailing the legal basis for, and objective of, the identity cards for national verification (ICNV), a document that is a prerequisite for applying for citizenship if the applicant no longer holds an identity card. While ICNVs are issued in accordance with the 1949 Registration of Residents Act (and related 1951 Rules), the rights accorded to ICNV holders differ from those holding National Registration Cards (three-folded cards) issued under the same Act.
 In addition to clearly articulating that the ICNV is issued only for purposes of scrutinizing the eligibility of the holder for citizenship (as per 1982 Citizenship Law), the notification specifically stated: (1) Card-holders can travel anywhere inside the country in accordance with the regional laws, orders and instructions of their respective State Government; (2) Card-holders from Rakhine State can travel freely in their resident township and inside Rakhine State in accordance with regional laws, orders and instructions enacted by the State Government; and (3) Card-holders from Rakhine State can go to Bangladesh legally with border passes.

 It is recalled that following the announcement that all Temporary Registration Cards (White Cards) would expire on 31 March 2015, about 470,000 TRCs were surrendered (of about 760,000 originally disbursed). While the highest number surrendered came from Rakhine (almost 400,000), the rest mostly came from Shan, Kayin and Mon States as well as Tanintharyi, Bago and Ayeyarwaddy Divisions. The specificities relating to card-holders residing in Rakhine State are notable especially their seeming right to cross into Bangladesh but not to freely move within Rakhine State and the rest of Myanmar.

 The Special Rapporteur already noted that many are skeptical of the citizenship verification exercise. Between June 2015 and December 2016, just over 600 ICNVs were issued in Rakhine State compared to almost 26,000 elsewhere. Reasons for this include the lack of consultation with affected communities resulting in their lack of understanding of the process and the continued limitations on the exercise of rights by citizens recognized through the process. Consequently, most Rohingya and other non-citizen minorities rely on the compulsory household list as the only current evidence of legal residence in Myanmar.

 The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned by reports of Rohingya and others being coerced into applying for ICNVs. For example, one must now have an ICNV to apply for a fishing license and travel authorizations. She reiterates her previous call to reform the Citizenship Law and related processes.

On the Development and economic, social and cultural rights

 In Rakhine State, the socioeconomic situation is reported to have remained relatively static, with Muslims not having benefitted from any improvements in the last year. While healthcare facilities and infrastructure have improved to an extent, skilled and trained health professionals remain acutely insufficient, and Muslims are still being prevented by the authorities from accessing many township hospitals, even during emergencies. She reiterates calls to ensure that all people, without discrimination, have safe access to township hospitals. Regarding access to education, she understands there is only one high school in Sittwe rural which currently serves the school-aged children of families driven out from nine townships following the 2012 violence. Temporary learning spaces, providing only basic primary education, are usually crowded, and running at double shifts. Further, in the northern part of Rakhine State many Rakhine teachers are reportedly unwilling to return after being evacuated following the 9 October attacks.

 Four years on there appears to be no progress in finding durable solutions neither for the 120,000 Muslim IDPs who remain in camps in central Rakhine nor for the 1,400 IDPs displaced in Maungdaw Township since 2012. Decision-making about resource allocation and service expansion by international humanitarian actors has been hampered by the lack of information on timeframes and visions for IDP return and/or relocation. The Special Rapporteur calls for development, humanitarian, and peace-building activities to be addressed in an inclusive, timely and sensitive manner with full regard for the human rights perspective to ensure a smoother transition towards long-term solutions, peace and reconciliation.

 The right to adequate housing is also key and includes protection from forced evictions. Reportedly in September 2016, the Rakhine State Government moved to identify buildings allegedly constructed without permission and have them dismantled. Over 2,200 such buildings in Maungdaw were apparently identified, including mosques and madrassas, over 400 shop stalls and over 1,600 residential homes. In Buthidaung, over 1,000 “illegal” buildings were identified, including mosques, madrassas, shops stalls and over 800 homes. Demolition of these “illegal” buildings reportedly began in November 2016. Of almost 1,000 structures allegedly dismantled from almost 2,000 identified buildings in Maungdaw south, 80 per cent were houses. Some 89 houses of 285 identified in Rathedaung Township have also been dismantled. In some cases, individuals were reportedly made to dismantle their own homes or were extorted by security personnel to avoid demolition.

On the Conflict-related violations

 Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), including intimate partner violence, remains a problem across the country but is particularly prevalent in conflict areas or areas of increased militarization. Survivors have limited access to life-saving services due to limited capacity of providers and specialized actors, and restrictions upon women’s freedom of movement due to increased militarization. There have been numerous allegations of rapes carried out by security forces in Rakhine State following the 9 October attacks. Few survivors are able to reach necessary medical care. Underreporting is widespread; only 50 per cent and 18 per cent of women accepted referral to healthcare providers in Rakhine and Kachin States respectively over 2016. These figures are drawn from programming data which represent a fraction of incidents – the vast majority remains unreported. Survivors are reportedly asked not to report SGBV to humanitarian actors and sometimes face repercussions if they do so. Where cases are reported, there is still widespread impunity. Two years on, the perpetrators remain at large for the rape and murder of two Kachin schoolteachers, Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Hkwan Nan Tsin in 2015. Previously highlighted cases of Sumlut Roi Ja and Ja Seng Ing have not yet been solved.

 In Rakhine State, the Special Rapporteur met individuals detained under section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act (1908) which does not conform with international standards. She reiterates her concern that some individuals detained under this Act have allegedly been tortured during interrogations.

On the Attacks against Myanmar BGP Camps on 9 October 2016

 On 9 October 2016, three BGP facilities in Rakhine State (in Kyee Kan Pyin and Nga Khu Ya in Maungdaw township and Koe Tan Kauk in Rathedaung township) were reportedly attacked by groups of armed men in a coordinated manner. In addition to nine members of the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) reportedly killed, the armed attackers appeared to have seized arms, weaponry and ammunitions. The security forces (Tatmadaw, MPF and the BGP) immediately responded with a counter-operation to pursue the attackers and recover stolen items. The Defense Ministry issued a statement on 14 October, announcing the initial operations will last three months and that this period is extendable.

 During the subsequent counter-operations, further clashes reportedly occurred, the most serious of which took place on 12-13 November. The government reports that there were more than twenty attacks and ambushes during the “clearance operations” with seven soldiers including one column commander and one police officer killed, and many others injured. The Government of Bangladesh reportedly arrested and returned to the Government of Myanmar two suspected attackers who had crossed the border. Early information regarding the attackers’ origin, motives and other details were apparently obtained from the interrogation of these two as well as two other suspects arrested by the Myanmar authorities.

Lack of access to information and affected population

 In the immediate aftermath, the Government extended an existing curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Maungdaw and two other townships. In respect of the “clearance operations,” Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships were officially declared affected and closed off for security reasons. All humanitarian operations and activities normally undertaken in these areas were suspended. Teachers, health workers and other service providers left these areas with reports that military helicopters were used in some cases to evacuate Rakhine civil servants from remote areas.

 As at 21 October 2016, it was estimated about 3,000 Rakhine community members were displaced. Some were reportedly transported by boat out of Maungdaw and many provided temporary shelters in Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Sittwe towns. Their needs were attended to by the State Government, local NGOs and religious organizations, with offers of international assistance from the United Nations and other international organizations mostly declined. In contrast, the estimated 10-15,000 Rohingya community members displaced as of 21 October had apparently not received any government assistance and were sheltered by host communities in villages affected by security operations. Humanitarian organizations – despite being ready to undertake assessment and respond to population in need – were not permitted to do so. Due to the lack of humanitarian access, it was extremely difficult for the actual number of those displaced and their needs to be accurately ascertained.

 As at 4 November, due to pre-existing humanitarian services having been suspended in most parts of northern Rakhine, more than 150,000 people went without their normal cash/food and nutrition assistance; 3,400 children already diagnosed with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) did not have access to their usual life-saving treatment; over 2,900 children who have been cured of SAM could not get their follow-up treatment and faced a high risk of relapsing; and 42,000 people including 37,000 children with Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) were at high risk of deteriorating into SAM cases. An estimated 7,600 pregnant women in need of continued care were also unable to access reproductive health services. Reportedly Hindu community members in Maungdaw also suffered from food shortages, lack of medical services, and other challenges as a result of movement restrictions and security operations. As at 13 February 2017, 69,000 people are estimated by the UN and humanitarian organizations in Bangladesh to have crossed into Bangladesh following the 9 October attacks. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that an additional 24,000 Rohingya people are internally displaced in Maungdaw north. By the end of January 2017, the majority of the ethnic Rakhine and Mro who were displaced from their homes had returned, although around 272 Rakhine and Mro people remain displaced in Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

 Humanitarian access was eventually incrementally allowed, at times in an almost ad-hoc way. For example, following the Government-led diplomatic mission comprising of the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and the Ambassadors/Heads of Missions from nine embassies to visit select northern Rakhine villages on 2-3 November 2016, a commitment was made for the resumption of humanitarian activities. WFP was able to deliver two-week’s worth of food rations to only four villages on 8-10 November subsequent to this commitment. Furthermore, these were one-off deliveries permitted to be conducted by national staff only.

 Just prior to the Special Rapporteur’s visit, it was announced that WFP were given access to 43 village tracts (containing 151 villages) in Maungdaw north with regular operations resuming in this area although the restriction against international staff stands at the time of writing. As at 2 February 2017, while health clinics and nutrition centres have re-opened in some areas, it appears less people have been accessing them, as the situation remains tense and movement confined through a strict travel authorization regime.

 In the immediate aftermath of the 9 October attacks and subsequent security operations, information was difficult to obtain regarding the situation in northern Rakhine. Independent media was not allowed in; and while an “Information Committee” was formed under the State Counsellor’s Office, much of the information being released appears similar to information released by the Ministry of Defence. Following further international pressure, a government-managed visit by a group of journalists was allowed to northern Rakhine on 20-22 December 2016, accessing almost the same areas as the earlier diplomatic mission. No explanation was given on how participants were selected and there appeared to be little reporting following the visit. One tragic outcome was the reported beheading of a villager in an apparent retaliation for having spoken to the journalists. The circumstances surrounding that killing remain unclear although the Government has reported that the group responsible for the 9 October attacks were behind this as well as 13 other reported killings. To date, this remains unconfirmed and independent media and human rights monitors still have no access to the north of Rakhine.

Allegations of human rights violations

 Following the 9 October attacks and the launch of the security operations, reports began surfacing, increasingly and persistently, regarding serious human rights violations against the Rohingya. On 24 October, the Special Rapporteur and several UN experts publicly expressed their concerns regarding allegations of summary executions, including of children, arbitrary arrests, as well as burning down of houses and mosques as part of the security operations. The experts called for thorough and impartial investigations of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions as well as access for humanitarian actors to undertake a needs assessment, continue delivering assistance, and ensure that the protection, needs and wellbeing of affected populations are urgently and properly addressed.

 Despite lack of access to the affected areas, reports continue to be released including by international NGOs and media, based on satellite imagery and analysis as well as from interviews with individuals who have fled Rakhine State. The Government’s consistent response to these allegations was denial and dismissal. While the Government of Myanmar declined the request from the High Commissioner for Human Rights for a team to access northern Rakhine, the Government of Bangladesh allowed access to a four-member team from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to meet members of the Rohingya population that had fled from northern Rakhine post-9 October in Cox’s Bazar. The flash report issued on 3 February documented a horrifying number of serious human rights violations which appeared to have taken place in a widespread and systematic manner “indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.” The alleged violations recorded from testimonies of over 200 Rohingyas include extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and inhuman treatment, rape and other forms of SGBV, arbitrary arrest and detention, deportation and forced transfer as a result of violence and persecution. The testimonies indicate that the attacks against Rohingya villages, including the deliberate destruction of houses and food stocks, make it impossible for Rohingya people to continue living in their villages, “thereby creating a coercive environment amounting to forced displacement.” In relation thereto, the High Commissioner urged Myanmar to bring the military operations to an end and conduct an independent investigation.

 While the Special Rapporteur did have access to five Rohingya villages in Maungdaw from where many reports of alleged violations had emanated and spoke to villagers, the visits were done over a brief period of time conducted in one day, making it difficult to ascertain the full scale and reliability of allegations conveyed. Further, while government officials and security personnel did not closely monitor the Special Rapporteur while talking to community members, she still noted the extreme state of fear and anxiety on the part of those who spoke with her as well as recognizing the possibility of informants from within the community who might later report to others on conversations. The Special Rapporteur also visited Rakhine communities including one displaced Mro community, and one Hindu community during her visit to Rakhine State. She notes that all communities reported increased livelihood difficulties following the 9 October attacks, as well as anxiety and fear.

 One of the more remarkable observations made during the visit to Maungdaw was of “hanging doors.” It had been reported previously that during the security operations, villagers were ordered to remove fencing around their houses, yards, ablution blocks and water ponds (allegedly accompanied by harassment, arrest and extortion of villagers). The observation of doors standing alone without fencing appears to corroborate these orders which have made women feel particularly vulnerable and insecure as bathing and toilet facilities are normally enclosed within these fences. The Special Rapporteur noted that earlier in June, an instruction was apparently issued by the Maungdaw authorities to ban zinc fencing around “Bengali” houses and its implementation was reportedly accelerated following the 9 October attacks. While the justification given for these instructions is security considerations, they appear to be further forms of intimidation, harassment, and ultimately discrimination, against the Rohingya population to make their living conditions unbearable.

 The Special Rapporteur was further alarmed to hear that an annual household list update that is normally conducted in January was brought forward in some areas. Reportedly, the exercise was underway from early November 2016 in the three northern Rakhine townships. For many Rohingya and Muslim villagers, being on the compulsory household list is the only current evidence of their legal status in Myanmar. With thousands displaced and many more having fled from their homes following the security operations, they risk being unable to prove that they are legal residents of Myanmar upon their return if their names are removed during the updating exercise.

Accountability mechanisms

 Despite early calls for thorough and impartial investigations into the allegations of human rights violations post 9 October attacks, it was announced only on 16 November that a Presidential investigation commission into events in Maungdaw would be established. (An informal briefing of the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Rakhine appeared to have taken place around the same date.) The Government-appointed Rakhine Advisory Commission, established in August 2016, had already clarified that its mandate does not include human rights investigations.

 The Special Rapporteur noted that the Presidential Maungdaw Investigation Commission is headed by Vice-President I who is a former military commander and its members include other (former) military members as well as the MPF Chief. There appears to be no one from the Rohingya community represented although there is one Muslim member, an elderly former Myanmar Ambassador. Other members include a representative from the Attorney-General’s Office, former high-ranking UN officials, a member of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (formerly of the foreign service), female members with women’s rights background, as well as those of other faiths and ethnic minorities. In addition to the inclusion of some members which calls into question the Commission’s impartiality; its mandate does not appear to necessarily encompass investigations into allegations of human rights violations. Its interim report appears to contain blanket statements that do not seem to have been based on assessing available information and evidence, raising serious doubts about its credibility.

 The Special Rapporteur has already expressed concerns regarding the Commission’s methods of work. She notes that these shortcomings mean Myanmar has yet to properly discharge its obligation to conduct credible “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations” into alleged human rights violations. Further, she notes that two mechanisms, a military investigation commission and a police investigation, were set up in early February. These seem to be purely internal mechanisms and do not diminish the need for independent mechanisms.

 During her recent visit, the Special Rapporteur raised with the authorities reports of custodial deaths among those arrested during security operations, including a former UN employee. She was told these deaths resulted from pre-existing health conditions. While the Special Rapporteur did not get access to the post-mortem reports of these cases, concern is raised regarding treatment in detention including during interrogations and access to immediate and proper medical treatment. In many cases, it would appear that suspects did not have legal representation. Additionally, many detainees’ families were not informed of their arrests, with many believing their family members had been killed. She calls for families of detained individuals to be immediately informed of their whereabouts and due process guarantees respected.

 Undoubtedly, the situation in Rakhine is complex. The Special Rapporteur reiterates that the longstanding grievances from the Rakhine Buddhist community must be urgently addressed noting that Rakhine State is now the poorest state in Myanmar. Access to education, healthcare, and livelihoods must be prioritized and guaranteed to all communities, including the Rohingya community. The recent developments add to the already complex nature of the situation. The entrenched fear, hostility, and lack of empathy toward the Rohingya people are pervasive throughout the whole of Myanmar. As such, the Special Rapporteur is heartened to see that more than 40 local CSOs have recently signed a statement calling for an independent investigation into the aftermath of the 9 October. She encourages all Myanmar human rights defenders to speak up and act for the human rights of all including the Rohingya people.


 To establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the systematic, structural, and institutional discrimination in policy, law and practice, as well long-standing persecution, against the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State with focus on the incidents of violence in 2012 and 2014, and the security operations following the attacks on 9 October 2016 which may amount to crimes against humanity.

Please say ‘Never Again’ Otherwise It will be Again and Again

In 2005, governments around the world unanimously agreed to the principle of the responsibility to protect (R2P), which holds that all states have a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide and mass atrocities, that the international community should assist them to fulfill this duty, and that the international community should take timely and decisive measures to protect populations from such crimes when their host state fails to do so. R2P is committed to peaceful interventions including assistance, peaceful persuasion, and financial sanctions. The nature of collective action must exhaust the possibilities of “appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means” before ‘forceful means’ can be considered.

The means of determining whether a state has abdicated its responsibility to protect is an independent investigation that can be commissioned by the UN Security Council, UN Human Rights Council, UN General Assembly, or the UN Secretary General. An investigation can recommend that the UN Security Council refer the situation to the ICC. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council has the authority to determine measures, peaceful or, if necessary, forceful, “to maintain or restore international peace and security.” This “international” provision does not imply that conflicts must threaten to spill over borders; certainly, the UN Security Council has acted to address numerous crises without “spillover power” on the basis that these crises necessitated UN intervention to reestablish international order. Even so, the threat in Burma has definitively spilled over international borders, with thousands of refugees from the anti-Muslim conflict pouring into nations including Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

The Rohingyas have been systematically disenfranchised and increasingly marginalized, including through denial of citizenship and restriction of movement. Over the years successive UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar have reported serious continuing human rights violations against this community.

Following a series of attacks on border guard posts on 9 October 2016 and subsequent joint army-police counterinsurgency operation, there have been consistent reports of extrajudicial executions, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, mass arrests, and the widespread destruction of Rohingya buildings and mosques.

Following a 12-day visit to Myanmar in January, Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee noted allegations of ongoing human rights abuses in Rakhine State. She also raised concerns regarding widespread fear amongst civilians of potential reprisals as punishment for speaking out. In her upcoming report to the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur Lee will call for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the Rohingya situation. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on 3 February based on interviews with Rohingya who had fled from Myanmar, which detailed “widespread and systematic” attacks against the Rohingya and reiterated “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity” – as had already been concluded by the High Commissioner in June 2016.

The descriptions of babies’ being killed with knives, multiple gang rapes, elderly people being burned alive, torture and killings that the UN said likely amounted to crimes against humanity by Myanmar’s security forces were profoundly distressing to read and provoked international outrage. Hundreds of people are thought to have been killed according to the 3 February report by UN OHCHR, which was based mainly on the testimonies of over 200 of the estimated 70,000 people who fled over the border into Bangladesh in the previous four months. The High Commissioner, likewise, has called for a Commission of Inquiry.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee both recently recommended the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the situation in Rakhine State.

In order for an independent investigation to be warranted, two points must be established:
1. It must be likely or evident that minority Muslims are suffering from mass atrocity crimes, defined under the Rome Statute and Geneva Conventions as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or ethnic cleansing,
2. It must be likely or evident that the state has withheld justice and accountability for victims of these mass atrocity crimes.

1. Mass Atrocity Crimes

Muslims in Burma are suffering from two types of mass atrocity crimes: crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

(a)Crimes against humanity

Crimes against humanity, defined in the ICC’s Elements of Crimes, consist of prohibited acts committed as part of a “widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.” The most relevant prohibited acts committed against Muslims include the crimes of murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape, sexual slavery, sexual violence, apartheid, and persecution.

An “attack”, ‘in Rome Statute, is defined as a “course of conduct involving the multiple commission” of prohibited acts.” According to the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, and scholars, “Widespread”, attacks are commonly understood to be “large-scale” with many victims. “Systematic” refers to well-organized attacks or attacks of a patterned or methodical nature. Attacks against non-Rohingya Muslims in Burma throughout 2013 were coordinated and widespread; indicating that prohibited acts against non-Rohingya Muslims may constitute crimes against humanity.

In Rakhine State, state security forces have responded to attacks by armed groups on police posts with a campaign of violence against the Rohingya civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity. In northern Myanmar fighting between the Army and armed ethnic groups has escalated leading to fresh violations of international humanitarian and human rights law against the ethnic civilian population.

Amnesty International and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human rights (OHCHR) have chronicled extensive human rights violations by the security forces, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, other forms of torture and ill-treatment, destruction of property and denial of humanitarian access. Amnesty International recalls that crimes against humanity are crimes of such serious magnitude that they affect humanity as a whole.

On 30 December 2016, 23 Nobel laureates and global leaders have urged the members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to urgently put the persisting Rohingya crisis on the Security Council’s agenda. They observed, “Houses have been burned, women raped, many civilians arbitrarily arrested, and children killed. Crucially, access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor.” They said, “It is time for the international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly. After Rwanda, world leaders said ‘never again’. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say ‘never again’ all over again.”

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented many such serious human rights violations in a ‘flash report’ released on 3 February 2017. The report, which detailed “widespread and systematic” attacks against the Rohingya, concluded that the attacks against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State during the prolonged crackdown could “very likely” amount to crimes against humanity. UN officials estimated that more than 1,000 Rohingya might have been killed in the crackdown. Military and police operations resulted in the displacement of at least 97,000 Rohingya, including approximately 73,000 who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

In June 2016, four months before the most recent attacks, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council highlighting the “possible commission of crimes against humanity” against Rohingya in Myanmar.

(b)Ethnic cleansing

Human rights violations against the Rohingya also amount to ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing is identified as a mass atrocity crime in customary international law, but it has not received an official legal definition. A 1994 UN Commission of Experts defined ethnic cleansing as a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror- inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.” Using this definition, ethnic cleansing precisely defines the plight of the Rohingya, who have been systematically moved from their neighborhoods and land, even from areas that were not affected by violence, and exiled to makeshift government camps. The local Arakan population, Burmese government officials, and in many cases, the general Burmese public, are remarkably straightforward about their intent to achieve a Rohingya-free Burma.

Human Rights Watch concluded in March 2013, after extensive investigative research into the human rights violations in Arakan State, that the Rohingya were prima facie targets of ethnic cleansing. The OIC Secretary General has called the Rohingya situation in Arakan State ethnic cleansing as well. Scholar Benjamin Zawacki of the International Commission of Jurists argued the same, maintaining that “what is being prosecuted in Rakhine State is an effort to remove the Rohingya from the area.”

2. Withholding Justice and Accountability

In order to establish an independent investigation into these crimes, it must be demonstrated that the Myanmar government has failed to pursue justice for the victims and perpetrators of these crimes. Under the Rome Statute and R2P, the Burmese government shoulders the sovereign responsibility to protect its own people against mass atrocity crimes. The ICC cannot have jurisdiction over the case unless the individual state’s judicial system fails to act.
Myanmar’s national judicial system has failed to act. No system of legal recourse or redress for Muslim victims of violence has been implemented. Domestic attempts at justice have been discriminatory and violent, resulting in mass arrests of Muslims, convictions under trumped-up charges, and the continuing sexual violence and extrajudicial killings of unarmed Rohingya.

The Myanmar’s government has not only abdicated its responsibility to protect its people, but also denies that the Rohingya are a legally legitimate people.

The Myanmar authorities have established several national commissions to investigate allegations of human rights violations; however none of these commissions are independent or credible. Two investigations are being conducted by the police and military respectively, raising concerns about their ability to investigate allegations of abuses within their ranks. The third Commission, established in December, claims to have found insufficient evidence of human rights violations, despite mounting reports to the contrary. Another commission – the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, does not have a human rights mandate and will not be conducting investigations into the allegations of abuses. On 6 February the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, stated that the failure to address these violations puts populations at “the risk of very serious international crimes.

Hence, the international community cannot adopt a “wait and see” attitude in the face of increasing violations. The continuing power of the military to violate rights with impunity and the unwillingness or inability of the new administration to counter discrimination and impunity require immediate action. The Council should adopt a strengthened resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar under agenda item 4, extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and requesting her to provide more regular reporting to the Council on the resolution’s implementation, including on meeting the reform benchmarks requested by HRC Resolution 31/24. It should also mandate an independent international investigation into human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity committed in Rakhine State since October 2016, to avoid impunity, ensure justice to victims and survivors and identify causes of violence.

Otherwise as 23 Nobel laureates and global leaders have said, “If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say ‘never again’ all over again.”

About Author:
Mr. Aman Ullah, a Rohingya historian based in Bangladesh and he was a former school teacher in Ann township and the southern part of Maungdaw, Arakan State, Myanmar, who has contributed in the field of Rohingya history and humanitarian stance.