The UN’s top human rights official says the leader of Myanmar has promised to investigate allegations of atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.
It comes after a high-level UN report accused security forces in Myanmar of committing serious human rights abuses.
What did the investigation find?
Security forces and police have committed mass killings, gang rapes and have burned entire villages in northern Rakhine state, it is claimed.
Testimonies point to a “persecution on ethnic grounds which is similar to what has been, in other contexts, described as ‘ethnic cleansing’,” UN mission leader Linnea Arvidsson told reporters in Geneva.
The report was published on Friday.
What has Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said?
“I did speak to Aung San Suu Kyi about an hour and a half ago,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, also in Geneva.
“I called upon her to use every means available to exert pressure on the military and the security services to end this operation.”
“She informed me that an investigation will be launched. She said that they would require further
Zeid said the perpetrators of such “horrors” must be held to acount.
Possible avenues would be the establishment of an international commission of inquiry or the involvement of the International Criminal Court.
Has there been a response from Myanmar?
Presidential spokesperson Zaw Htay said: “These are extremely serious allegations and we are deeply concerned.”
“We will be immediately investigating these allegations through the investigation commission, led by Vice-President U Myint Swe.”
“Where there is clear evidence of abuses and violations, we will take all necessary action.”
Aung San Suu Kyi
Many Rohingya were reportedly hoping that Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, would work to restore their rights.
Her civilian administration took power in March last year.
“I am not going to go now into the extent to which she should have done more or less,” Zeid said.
“There should be some responsibility.”
Nobel laureates warn Aung San Suu Kyi over 'ethnic cleansing' of Rohingya | World news | The Guardian https://t.co/zAOe5uhZz6— Akli Ait Abdallah (@AkliAit) December 30, 2016
How has the situation come about?
Myanmar, a mostly Buddhist country, has previously denied almost all allegations of human rights abuses against Muslims in northern Rakhine.
It says a lawful counter-insurgency campaign is underway.
Myanmar’s security forces launched a crackdown in the north of Rakhine State on the border with Bangladesh in October.
Nine police officers had been killed in attacks on border posts the government blamed on Rohingya, supported by foreign militants.
Has anyone been killed?
At least 86 have died.
Crimes against humanity?
The plight of the stateless Rohingya, one million of whom live in apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine, has long been a source of friction between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
An estimated 69,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since the unrest began on October 9.
The UN report was based on accounts gathered in January from 220 Rohingya.
Witnesses testified to:
- “the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and the elderly”
- “opening fire at people fleeing”
- “burning of entire villages”
- “massive detention”
- “massive and systematic rape and sexual violence”
- “deliberate destruction of food and sources of food”
The report says the actions, allegedly by security forces, probably amount to crimes against humanity.
Rohingya Muslims are being “ethnically cleansed.”— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 3, 2017
After a UN report, Aung San Suu Kyi vows to investigate. pic.twitter.com/Yl8uvUnnX3
What evidence did the UN report consider?
Mainly individual testimony and photographs.
They include images of bullet and knife wounds, burns and injuries resulting from beatings with rifle butts or bamboo sticks.
The report describes “area clearance operations” – gunfire and grenades dropped on villages from helicopters – which may have killed hundreds.
Nearly half of those interviewed said a family member had been killed or had disappeared.
101 women report have been raped or subject to sexual violence.
Is there international support for the Rohingya?
Majority-Muslim Malaysia has sent a ship carring
tonnes of food and emergency supplies.
The 2,200-tonne aid shipment, bound for Myanmar’s biggest city and port of Yangon, has been organised by Malaysian and foreign aid groups.
The ship is expected to arrive in Yangon on February 9.
Organisers say it will unload 500 tonnes of supplies before heading to the port of Teknaf, across the border in Bangladesh.
“This is an historic moment..a noble effort that shows that all the pain and suffering of Rohingya in Myanmar will not go ignored,” Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the port.
“We hear their pain, those who have been raped, murdered and burned alive.”