UNITED NATIONS — The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned Oct. 22 that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring” against the estimated 600,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority still living in the country.
Marzuki Darusman told the General Assembly’s human rights committee that “if anything, the situation of the Rohingya in Rakhine state has worsened,” citing continued discrimination, segregation, restricted movement, insecurity and a lack of access to land, jobs, education and health care.
The government of Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority nation, has refused to recognize Rohingya as citizens or even as one of its ethnic groups, rendering the vast majority stateless.
Myanmar’s military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and burning of their homes.
The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which Darusman heads, said in its final report last month that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.
“There is a strong inference of continued genocidal intent on the part of the state in relation to the Rohingya and there is a serious risk of genocide recurring,” Darusman said Oct. 22.
Darusman said the fact-finding mission has transferred 1,227 interviews with victims and witnesses of crimes against the Rohingya to another specially established U.N. body, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. It said the material included “a list of over 150 people suspected of involvement in numerous international crimes.”
Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador, Hau Do Suan, noted his government doesn’t recognize the fact-finding mission, calling its views “one-sided” and based on “misleading information and secondary sources.” He accused the mission of ignoring the situation of the Hindu minority and other ethnic minorities in Rakhine state.
The ambassador said that Myanmar’s government takes accountability seriously and that perpetrators of all human rights violations “must be held accountable.”
“However, we will never accept any attempt to exert unjust and unwarranted political pressures under the pretext of accountability,” Hau said.
Yanghee Lee, the U.N.’s independent investigator on Myanmar, told the assembly that the Independent Commission of Inquiry formed by Myanmar’s government “does not represent a possible end to this impunity.”
Lee also urged the international community to impose sanctions on companies owned by Myanmar’s military and on “its commanders most responsible for serious violations.”
Lee said that “there is no discernible improvement” in the human rights situation in Myanmar.
“Discrimination against religious minorities continues unabated,” she said. “I am informed of 27 villages which describe themselves as ‘Muslim free,’ banning Muslims from entry.”
Myanmar’s government has barred both Darusman and Lee from entering the country — and both stressed that it is unsafe for the Rohingya refugees to return from Bangladesh.