Deplore India’s Current Measures To Deport Rohingya Refugees, Says UN Rights Body Chief

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Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh. — Reuters

Noting India’s obligations under international law, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations.

GENEVA (AFP) — The top UN human rights official on Monday denounced Myanmar’s “brutal security operation” against Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine state, saying it was disproportionate to ‘insurgent attacks’ carried out last month. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, also crticised India for seeking to deport Rohingyas who have taken shelter in India.

I deplore current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country,” Zeid said, noting that some 40,000 Rohingyas had settled in India, including 16,000 who have received refugee documentation.  Noting India’s obligations under international law, he said: “India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations.”

Communal tensions appeared to be rising across Myanmar on Monday after two weeks of violence in Rakhine state that have triggered an exodus of about 300,000 Rohingya Muslims.

The number of Rohingya who have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August 25 has reached 313,000, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

The estimate came from Joseph Tripura, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency.

The United Nations and the Bangladesh government have said the number arriving has slowed down in recent days although the situation is still volatile.

On Sunday the UN said some 294,000 Rohingya had arrived, a jump of only 4,000 from the previous day.

“Many new arrivals are still on the move and residing on the roadsides, and are left out of the calculations due to the lack of comprehensive tracking mechanism,” said a UN coordination report Monday.

“We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians,” Zeid told the Geneva forum.

He cited reports that Myanmar authorities had begun to lay landmines along the border with Bangladesh and would require returnees to provide “proof of citizenship”.

Rohingya have been stripped of civil and political rights including citizenship rights for decades, he added. “I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred, and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population,” Zeid said. “The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Last year, Zeid’s office issued a report, based on interviews with Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh after a previous military assault, which he said on Monday had “suggested a widespread or systematic attack against the community, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity”.

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