The report based on interviews with 204 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh said it was “very likely” that crimes against humanity had been committed in Myanmar. Victims recounted gruesome violations allegedly perpetrated by members of Myanmar’s security services or civilian fighters working alongside the military and police
GENEVA — Myanmar’s four-month military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims has likely killed hundreds of people, the UN said Friday in a report detailing horrific abuses allegedly committed against civilians in Rakhine state.
“The ‘area clearance operations’ have likely resulted in several hundred deaths,” said the report from the United Nations human rights office, referring to the military crackdown launched on October 10.
The report based on interviews with 204 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh said it was “very likely” that crimes against humanity had been committed in Myanmar, echoing similar accusations made by UN officials.
Victims recounted gruesome violations allegedly perpetrated by members of Myanmar’s security services or civilian fighters working alongside the military and police.
The UN also said it had reports of three children aged six or younger being “slaughtered with knives”.
“What kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk,” UN rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein said in the statement.
“What kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?”, he added.
A full 47 percent of those interviewed by the UN said they had a family member who had been killed in the operation, while 43 percent reported being raped.
The Rohingya are loathed by many among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.
Yangon refuses to recognize the Rohingya as one of the country’s ethnic minorities, instead describing them as Bengalis — or illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh — even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.
The military crackdown in Rakhine, home to more than one million Rohingya, was triggered by a series of October 9 attacks on border guard posts.
Yangon’s own probe into the unrest denied that the security forces had carried out a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.
Myanmar’s government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has said the allegations are invented and has resisted mounting international pressure to protect the minority.
But Zeid, who has previously urged Yangon to act, hit back again on Friday demanding that impunity for such serious crimes had to stop.
“The Government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people, instead of continuing to deny they have occurred,” he said.
The report also cites consistent testimony indicating that hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques were burned by the army, police and sometimes civilian mobs. Witnesses also described the destruction of food and food sources, including paddy fields, and the confiscation of livestock.
It also noted that several people were killed in indiscriminate and random shooting – many while fleeing for safety.
Army or Rakhine villagers locked an entire family, including elderly and disabled people, inside a house and set it on fire, killing them allReport
“Numerous testimonies collected from people from different village tracts…confirmed that the army deliberately set fire to houses with families inside, and in other cases pushed Rohingyas into already burning houses,” the report states.
“Testimonies were collected of several cases where the army or Rakhine villagers locked an entire family, including elderly and disabled people, inside a house and set it on fire, killing them all.”
Many witnesses and victims also described being taunted while they were being beaten, raped or rounded up, such as being told “you are Bangladeshis and you should go back” or “What can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?”
Perpetrators and those who ordered them must be held accountable – UN rights chief
Calling on the international community for robust reaction given the gravity and scale of the allegations, High Commissioner Zeid stressed:
“The Government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people, instead of continuing to deny they have occurred, and accepts the responsibility to ensure that victims have access to justice, reparations and safety.”
“The killing of people as they prayed, fished to feed their families or slept in their homes, the brutal beating of children as young as two and an elderly woman aged 80 – the perpetrators of these violations, and those who ordered them, must be held accountable.”
Violence follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses – OHCHR
According to the UN human rights wing, the violence since 9 October follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine state, the report notes.
OHCHR also noted that after the repeated failure of the Government of Myanmar to grant it unrestricted access to the worst-affected areas of northern Rakhine state, High Commissioner Zeid deployed a team of human rights officers to the Bangladeshi border with Myanmar, where an estimated 66,000 Rohingya have fled since 9 October 2016.
It further noted that according to reports, operations by security forces in the area have continued into January 2017, although their intensity and frequency may have reduced.
Violations of children’s rights ‘totally unacceptable’ – UNICEF
Also today, expressing serious concern at the level of violations of children’s rights as documented in the report, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for thorough investigations into the allegations and prosecution of the violators.
“Such violations of children’s rights are totally unacceptable,” the UN agency said, underscoring: “Every child has the right to protection, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, religion or nationality, in every circumstance […] child victims need and deserve support.”