Investigator: UN, International Community Fail to Hold Myanmar Accountable for Crimes Against Rohingya

GEVENA, SWITZERLAND – A U.N. investigator says the United Nations and international community have failed to hold the government of Myanmar accountable for decades of persecution and repression against the minority Rohingya Muslims. The report from the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar is under discussion at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

More than one million Rohingya refugees have fled to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to escape violence, persecution and death in Myanmar. U.N. investigator Yanghee Lee says she is concerned the international community is beginning to overlook their situation.

“They are subject to a human rights crisis, responsibility for which lies with Myanmar. It is entirely their responsibility to bring about all necessary conditions for all the people they forcibly drove out to return and they are entirely failing to do so. The remaining Rohingya in Myanmar continue to be denied their rights and are persecuted by authorities, making returns from Bangladesh impossible at this time.”

Last year, Myanmar established an independent commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine state, where the military conducted a brutal crackdown against Rohingya Muslims about two years ago.

Rohingya ethnic minority from Myanmar walks past rice fields after crossing the border into Bangladesh near Cox's Bazar's Teknaf area, Sept. 1, 2017.
FILE – Rohingya ethnic minority from Myanmar walks past rice fields after crossing the border into Bangladesh near Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf area, Sept. 1, 2017.

Lee said the commission has not demonstrated its capacity to bring justice to victims. She said accountability for the Rohingya cannot be achieved in the domestic arena.

“I reiterate what I have now said many times, that the international community must ensure justice is brought about. I am disappointed that nine months following the resolution establishing it, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar is still not functioning. There is a real risk that there will be a gap in investigations into the most serious international crimes and violations of international law in Myanmar,” said Lee.

The Human Rights Council established the investigative body in September to collect and analyze evidence of serious crimes and violations committed in Myanmar since 2011.

Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Kyaw Moe Tun, said the special rapporteur’s accusations are discreditable and counterproductive. The ambassador is urging the council to remove Yanghee Lee as special rapporteur and replace her with someone he said is more fit to occupy that position.

Instead of naming and shaming his country based on groundless allegations, he said the council should work with Myanmar in a constructive manner to find a durable solution.