THE top UN human rights official in an address to the UN human rights council in Geneva in the second week of September 2017, soon after the Rohingyas started fleeing, since August 25 that year, military persecution in the latest spate in Rakhine State to safety into Bangladesh, said that Myanmar’s treatment of its Muslim Rohingya minority had appeared to be a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’. The UN official that time denounced the ‘brutal security operation’ against the Rohingyas and said that it was ‘clearly disproportionate’ to the insurgent attacks that Myanmar said were carried out on Myanmar police posts and an army base. The number of Rohingyas entering Bangladesh till then was estimated at 3,79,000, mostly women, children and elderly people, adding to more than 4,00,000 Rohingyas, fleeing violence in Myanmar since the late 1970s, already living in Cox’s Bazar, in official camps and unofficial shelters. The influx till date has added up to more than 1.1 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh. Now the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has come up with a detailed report saying that Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Mulsim Rohingyas with ‘genocidal intent’.
The latest UN report corroborates the earlier observations and says that the commander-in-chief and five generals of the Myanmar’s military should be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under law. The UN report also says that Myanmar’s civilian government led by its state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has allowed hate speech to thrive, destroyed documents and failed to protect minorities from crimes against humanity and war crimes by the army in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states. The report says that the scorching of villages in the states was ‘grossly disproportionate to actual security threats.’ Now that the UN committee has finally concluded that Myanmar’s civilian government has ‘contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes’ by its military, the investigators recommended that the Security Council, which earlier several times failed to resolve on the condemnation of Myanmar or any action against Myanmar’s Rohingya persecution, because of Myanmar’s clout, political and strategic, on a few council members, should ensure that all perpetrators are held to account, preferably by referring Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or by creating an ad hoc tribunal. They say that the council should ‘adopt targeted individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against those who appear most responsible for serious crimes under international law’ and impose an arms embargo on Myanmar.
In what has followed, the UN Security Council must now act on the findings and observations of the United Nations as much to resolve the Rohingya humanitarian crisis as to prove worth. While the United Nations must make the Myanmar military, and its ranking officials, face justice, it must also work, along with regional powers and forums, to ensure a safe, sustainable and voluntary repatriation of all the Rohingyas to their homeland in Myanmar.
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