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.
“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.
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.
Additionally, Lee called for a comprehensive review of actions by the United Nations system in the lead-up to and after the reported attacks of 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates and within the Human Rights Up Front framework.
“The external review should assess whether the UN and international community could have prevented or managed the situation differently that occurred regarding the Rohingya and in Rakhine State, and make recommendations for accountability if appropriate,” she said.
Lee also expressed concerns that as the world’s attention was drawn to the recent crisis in Rakhine State, scant attention had been afforded to continued and escalating violence in Kachin, Shan and other conflict affected States in Myanmar.
She said against this background, the peace process appeared to be losing its momentum. “Ethnic armed organizations have complained that the reason for this is largely due to the failure of the Government and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to take steps to earn the trust of stakeholders,” Lee said.
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.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
(C) 2018 United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner