GENEVA – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein reiterated his suspicions on Wednesday that acts of genocide were committed in Rakhine State of western Myanmar, which is home to the ethnic Muslim minority Rohingyas.
He also claimed that the alleged mass graves of the victims are being destroyed or made to disappear.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “has strong suspicions that acts of genocide may have taken place in Rakhine State since August,” Zeid said during the presentation of his annual report at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council.
Therefore, he said he was not surprised by reports that Rohingya villages have been “attacked in recent years, and alleged mass graves of the victims, are being bulldozed.”
“This appears to be a deliberate attempt by the authorities to destroy potential evidence of international crimes,” affirmed the high commissioner.
Moreover, he stressed that his office “believes that ethnic cleansing is still underway in Rakhine State.”
The township of Maungdaw – where the Myanmar army started an armed operation in August last year following attacks by Rohingya insurgents on several check posts of the security forces – has been “essentially emptied” of its Rohingya community, according to Zeid.
The Rohingyas continue to flee to Bangladesh owing to systemic violence and persecution in other towns and cities, said Zeid.
Victims have reported cases of murder, rapes, torture and kidnappings by the security forces of Myanmar and local militias, as well as apparently deliberate attempts to force the Rohingyas to leave, with officials blocking their access to crops and food supplies.
The high commissioner also considered a recent announcement that seven soldiers and three policemen would be tried for the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya men as “grossly insufficient.”
“The government must take steps towards real accountability for these violations, and must fully respect the rights of the Rohingya, including to citizenship,” he said, also referring to them as not being recognized as citizens in Myanmar.
Zeid also maintained that any agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar for repatriation of displaced Rohingyas should include a “clear pathway to citizenship” and put an end to discrimination and violence inflicted upon this ethnic minority community.
The high commissioner further said it appeared that the discriminatory practices and policies in Myanmar were also being applied on other groups, as there were reports of civilian victims of attacks by security forces in Shan and Kachin states.
While the UN Fact Finding Mission for Myanmar is scheduled to submit its report next week, Zeid once again felt the need for the Human Rights Council to set up an impartial and independent mechanism, which, unlike the Mission, can prepare and expedite criminal proceedings in courts against those responsible for the crimes in Myanmar.