Myanmar: UN Rights Expert Reports Genocide in Rakhine State

Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, told the Human Rights Council on Monday she was increasingly of the opinion that the events in Rakhine State bear the hallmarks of genocide and called in the strongest terms for accountability.

Lee, who was informed late last year that her access to the country was denied, also expressed serious concern that “the repressive practices of previous military governments were returning as the norm once more” in Myanmar, describing the situation faced by civil society across the country as “increasingly perilous”.

Delivering her report to the Council in Geneva, Lee said that to date accountability for the crimes committed in Rakhine State following 25 August 2017, and 9 October 2016, was elusive, adding that this must now be the focus of the international community’s efforts to bring long-lasting peace, stability and democratization to Myanmar.

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“This must be aimed at the individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups,” said Lee. “The Government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop, or condemn these acts must also be held accountable.”

Lee called for a thorough, impartial and credible investigation to be conducted without delay and perpetrators to be held responsible for the alleged crimes that were committed in Rakhine State since 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017, and for the violations that continue today.

She called for the establishment of a UN structure, based in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, for a duration of three years to investigate, document, collect, consolidate, map, and analyze evidence of human rights violations and abuses.

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The Special Rapporteur added that the investigative body should maintain and prepare evidence in a master database to support and facilitate impartial, fair and independent international criminal proceedings in national or international courts or tribunals in accordance with international criminal law standards.

The Special Rapporteur said she hoped to make official visits to India and China as part of her preparation to report to the General Assembly later this year, and said she remained hopeful the Myanmar Government would revisit its decision and grant her access.

Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity.

Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman