Rohingya crisis: United Nations rights chief 'cannot rule out genocide'

Danny Woods
December 7, 2017

Addressing a special session of the Human Rights Council on December 5, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein described "widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal attacks against the Rohingya community" that "deliberately and massively targeted civilians", and enumerated actions "warranting the attention of the International Criminal Court" that have been perpetrated against the Rohingya by Myanmar's security forces and local militia. Myanmar's army says it has been targeting Rohingya militants.

But Zeid said no Rohingya refugee should be repatriated without sustained human rights monitoring to ensure they can live safely and in dignity, warning that continued dehumanising of the Muslim minority could fuel further violence and draw in other communities. "Some have concluded that genocide or crimes against humanity have taken place".

"Can anyone - can anyone - rule out that elements of genocide may be present?" he told the 47-member state forum.

"There will be no camps", he told the emergency session. Zeid asked. "Ultimately, this is a legal determination only a competent court can make".

Be that as it may, al-Hussein has urged the United Nations to establish a reformed mechanism to allow criminal prosecutions of those guilty of the offense, and called for a new approach to prosecutions that will permit them to be charged in the International Criminal Court.

Genocide - an attempt to wipe a group of people out of existence in whole or in part - is a legally specific term understood by most to be the gravest crime against humanity.

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Some worldwide legal experts argue that once a situation is defined as genocide, the UN Security Council is then obliged to intervene. He also is calling for an global investigation to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes.

The Rohingya are a stateless minority who have long experienced persecution in Myanmar.

The Burmese government doesn't use the word Rohingya and considers them illegal immigrants even though some Rohingya families can trace their roots in Rakhine State back decades.

Bangladesh also denies they are its citizens.

About 100,000 of the one million or so Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh will be moved to Thengar Char, a remote, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal by November 2019, according to details of the $278 million plan released by the office of Mustafa Kamal, Bangladesh's minister of planning. "But it needs to ensure that its rhetoric is matched by its will to prevent further mistreatment, forced returns, and assaults to the human rights and dignity of the Rohingya", Laila Matar, HRW's senior United Nations advocate said in a statement.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, while addressing a special session of the Human Rights Council, said that Myanmar government's actions to humanise the Rohingya Muslims will lead to more violence.

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