UN calls for Rakhine probe

As al­le­ga­tions of se­ri­ous abuses per­pe­trated against the Mus­lim ma­jor­ity in north­ern Rakhine State con­tinue to mount, the United Na­tions has called on the gov­ern­ment to launch an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - AN­DREW D KASPAR a.kaspar@mm­times.com

UNITED Na­tions hu­man rights ex­perts have urged the gov­ern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of se­ri­ous abuses per­pe­trated by se­cu­rity forces against north­ern Rakhine State’s Mus­lim ma­jor­ity as ac­cu­sa­tions of mis­con­duct con­tin­ued to mount this week.

Rakhine State’s volatile north, which borders Bangladesh, has been on vir­tual lockdown since Oc­to­ber 9 at­tacks on Bor­der Guard Po­lice posts in Maung­daw and Rathedaung town­ships plunged the re­gion into fur­ther tur­moil.

“In the af­ter­math of the at­tacks, State Coun­sel­lor Aung San Suu Kyi has rightly called for proper in­ves­ti­ga­tions to be con­ducted and for no one to be ac­cused un­til solid ev­i­dence is ob­tained,” said the UN spe­cial rap­por­teur on Myan­mar’s hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion, Yanghee Lee, in a state­ment from Geneva on Oc­to­ber 24.

“In­stead, we re­ceive re­peated al­le­ga­tions of ar­bi­trary ar­rests as well as ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings oc­cur­ring within the con­text of the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions con­ducted by the au­thor­i­ties in search of the al­leged at­tack­ers.”

While the state coun­sel­lor has pledged that sus­pected mil­i­tants would be han­dled law­fully, both the mil­i­tary and the po­lice force op­er­at­ing in Rakhine State are con­sti­tu­tion­ally beyond her con­trol.

Ro­hingya Mus­lims ad­vo­cacy groups and hu­man rights mon­i­tors have ac­cused se­cu­rity forces of torch­ing Mus­lim vil­lages, ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and rape as they carry out what the gov­ern­ment is re­fer­ring to as “clear­ance op­er­a­tions”.

With ac­cess to the area se­verely re­stricted, in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fy­ing much of the in­for­ma­tion be­ing pro­vided by state me­dia, hu­man rights groups and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials has been dif­fi­cult. State me­dia has con­firmed that se­cu­rity forces have killed at least 30 peo­ple in the Oc­to­ber 9 bor­der raids and the man­hunt that has fol­lowed, but re­ferred to the slain as “vi­o­lent armed at­tack­ers”.

“What trou­bles me most is the lack of ac­cess for a proper as­sess­ment of the true pic­ture of the sit­u­a­tion there at the present mo­ment,” Ms Lee said.

The pre-dawn strikes by un­known as­sailants on three po­lice posts killed nine po­lice of­fi­cers and eight of the at­tack­ers. The Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice and State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have said the per­pe­tra­tors were mo­ti­vated by Is­lamic ex­trem­ism, leav­ing the largely state­less Ro­hingya vul­ner­a­ble to tar­get­ing.

The UN spe­cial rap­por­teur on sum­mary ex­e­cu­tions and on in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons, Agnes Cal­la­mard and Chaloka Beyani re­spec­tively, joined in voic­ing con­cern for the con­duct of se­cu­rity forces in Rakhine State.

“Reports of homes and mosques be­ing burnt down and per­sons of a cer­tain pro­file be­ing rounded up and shot are alarm­ing and un­ac­cept­able. The au­thor­i­ties can­not jus­tify sim­ply shoot­ing sus­pects down on the ba­sis of the se­ri­ous­ness of the crime alone. The au­thor­i­ties have the duty to take con­crete mea­sures to pre­vent ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings in the coun­try, not to per­pet­u­ate them,” Ms Cal­la­mard said.

“While the State has the le­git­i­mate author­ity and power to carry out op­er­a­tions to pur­sue the al­leged per­pe­tra­tors of the 9 Oc­to­ber at­tacks, such crimes should be in­ves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted in a court of law and not dealt with vi­o­lence.”

Mean­while, the Burma Hu­man Rights Net­work (BHRN) yes­ter­day added rape to the list of ac­cu­sa­tions be­ing lev­elled against se­cu­rity forces in north­ern Rakhine State.

“At least 10 cases of rape against Ro­hingya women have been doc­u­mented by civil­ians in Maung­daw since the army en­tered the city. These reports, while dif­fi­cult to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify, con­tain strong ev­i­dence and beg for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” the Lon­don­based net­work said in a state­ment.

The BHRN said it had in­ter­viewed one of the al­leged vic­tims in Bangladesh. The woman, three months preg­nant, told of how she fled across the bor­der af­ter be­ing raped at the hands of two Tat­madaw sol­diers and sub­se­quently mis­car­ry­ing. A doc­tor’s ex­am­i­na­tion cor­rob­o­rated her ac­count of be­ing beaten, raped and suf­fer­ing a mis­car­riage, the BHRN said.

With the Tat­madaw declar­ing Maung­daw and Buthi­daung town­ships an “op­er­a­tional zone” and sharply cur­tail­ing ac­cess for aid groups as well as me­dia, hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cerns are grow­ing.

Roughly 13,000 peo­ple have been dis­placed since Oc­to­ber 9, ac­cord­ing to the fo­rum and the Euro­pean Union’s Direc­torate Gen­eral for Euro­pean Civil Pro­tec­tion and Hu­man­i­tar­ian Aid Op­er­a­tions. About 3000 are eth­nic Rakhine and 10,000 are self-iden­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims.

The UN World Food Pro­gramme told The Myan­mar Times last week that it was be­ing de­nied ac­cess to de­liver ra­tions in north­ern Rakhine State. INGO Fo­rum Myan­mar said the lockdown was “pre­vent­ing INGOs from be­ing able to reach peo­ple to ascer­tain their needs and pro­vide as­sis­tance, halt­ing on­go­ing pro­grams such as health clin­ics and plac­ing crit­i­cal strains on ex­ist­ing stocks and sup­plies”.

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