Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Distinguished President,
Excellencies,
Colleagues, Friends,

Mr President,

The situation of the Rohingya community in Myanmar, and of some 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, continue to be of intense concern. As the Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights announced this week, following his mission to Bangladesh, my Office believes that ethnic cleansing is still underway in Rakhine State. While the township of Maungdaw has been essentially emptied of its Rohingya community, people continue to flee to Bangladesh because of systematic – though lower-intensity – persecution and violence in other towns and villages. Victims have reported killings, rape, torture and abductions by the security forces and local militia, as well as apparently deliberate attempts to force the Rohingya to leave the area through starvation, with officials blocking their access to crops and food supplies. This Council is aware that my Office has strong suspicions that acts of genocide may have taken place in Rakhine State since August. I am therefore not surprised by reports that Rohingya villages which were 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. I have also received reports of the appropriation of land inhabited by Rohingya and their replacement by members of other ethnic groups.

A recent announcement that seven soldiers and three police officers will be brought to justice for the alleged extra-judicial killing of ten Rohingya men is 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. While awaiting the final report of the Fact Finding Mission, I again recommend that this Council ask the General Assembly to establish a new independent and impartial mechanism to prepare and expedite criminal proceedings in courts against those responsible. Any repatriation agreement should lay out a clear pathway to citizenship and put an end to the discrimination and violence inflicted on the Rohingya; these conditions are clearly not in place today. I thank Bangladesh for hosting almost one million refugees, and I will continue to call on member states for long-term support for host communities, as well as to uphold the refugees’ rights to education and a livelihood.

Access for independent human rights monitoring is practically non-existent across Myanmar, but it appears clear that longstanding discriminatory policies and practices also continue against other groups. In Shan and Kachin states, civilian casualties continue to be reported as a result of attacks by the security forces. I am also alarmed by a dramatic erosion of freedom of the press; journalists have in recent months faced escalating intimidation, harassment, and death threats.

View the original statement HERE.

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