Yanghee Lee: High-level UN probe needed for Rohingya

UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar calls for international probe into abuses against Rohingya Muslims.

    Myanmar "may be trying to expel" all ethnic Rohingya from its territory, a UN rights expert says, pushing for a high-level inquiry into abuses against the Muslim minority community.

    Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, told the UN rights council in Geneva on Monday evidence indicated a full purge could be the ultimate goal of the institutional persecution being perpetrated against the Rohingya.

    "Conducting a household survey - where those absent may be struck off the list that could be the only legal proof of their status in Myanmar - indicates the government may be trying to expel the Rohingya population from the country altogether," she said.

    The army launched a bloody crackdown against the Rohingya in October in the northern Rakhine state following attacks by rebels on several border posts.

    UN investigators say during the military operation women were gang-raped by soldiers and Rohingya babies were slaughtered.

    Lee wants the rights council to establish the UN's highest-level probe, a Commission of Inquiry, to investigate the crackdown, as well as violent episodes in 2012 and 2014.

    Myanmar's UN envoy in Geneva U Htin Lynn said at the council on Monday the allegations were unverified and one-sided. He said security operations in Rakhine had stopped and the curfew was eased earlier this month.

    "The situation in Rakhine state is very complicated in nature and thus requires complicated answers. It also requires greater understanding by the international community," he said.

    "Myanmar does not accept the idea of a commission of Inquiry, as we are seriously addressing the allegations nationally."

    Threat to democracy

    The council could set up the commission before its session ends later this month, but key players including the European Union have not yet backed Lee's call because of concern that a damning UN investigation might threaten the country's fragile democracy drive.

    Speaking to reporters after her council appearance, Lee said she believed support for an inquiry was tepid, including within the EU.

    Countries "won't say they are not going to support your call, but I do hear ... [countries] say that maybe Aung San Suu Kyi needs more time", Lee said, referring to the Nobel peace laureate who leads Myanmar's civilian government.

    Aung San Suu Kyi's administration, which took charge last year after decades of oppressive military rule, has rejected Lee's bid to set up the investigation and insisted its own national probe can uncover the facts in Rakhine.

    Lee conceded a full international probe "could have a destabilising effect" - in that it may implicate the military in crimes against humanity - but she insisted it was in the government's interest to get the facts out.

    WATCH: The Rakhine crisis (24:57)

    She also told the council the government's internal probe had already been proved inadequate.

    Representatives from the EU, the Netherlands and Britain all avoided the question of the investigation during Monday's discussion.

    Julian Braithwaite, Britain's envoy to the council, said the international community needed to "engage [Myanmar] without damaging the delicate civilian-military balance".

    SOURCE: News agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    From Qatar to Alaska, a personal journey exploring what it means to belong when your culture is endangered.