Marzuki Darusman, chief of the fact-finding mission on Myanmar, speaks at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on Sept. 18. PHOTO: SALVATORE DI NOLFI/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. investigators said on Wednesday that Myanmar has continued its campaign of “genocide” against Rohingya Muslims remaining in the country, as the Security Council for the first time ever was briefed by a human-rights envoy on a specific country.
The evidence pointed to systematic crimes against humanity at the command of six senior army generals, investigators said. The head of Myanmar’s government, Aung San Suu Kyi, was also heavily criticized for not preventing the crimes and denying they have taken place.
The U.S., U.K., France and other countries requested a public debate on human-rights violations in Myanmar and a briefing by Marzuki Darusman, the U.N.’s chief for the fact-finding mission on the country. Russia and China attempted to block the discussion on grounds that human rights are outside of the council’s mandate.
“It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place at the moment,” said Mr. Darusman. “Myanmar presents precisely the kind of peace and security that the U.N. and particularly this council was created to address.”
Mr. Darusman, in a speech drawn from the fact-finding mission’s report released in September, said the Rohingya population had suffered killing, torture and rape at the hands of the military and that senior military generals had systematically ripped the minority group of their liberties and forced them into labor and displacement.
Mr. Darusman called on the council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or create an ad hoc international tribunal, saying accountability at a national level wasn’t obtainable. He also recommended an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against the six senior army officials who commanded the violations.
Mr. Darusman said the targeted killings of Rohingya minority may have stopped but that the up-to-400,000 Rohingya Muslims that remain continue to face severe restrictions and repressions that constitute genocide. Those violations include causing serious bodily harm, inflicting conditions to harm an ethnic group and imposing measurements to stop birth.
This week marked the annual meeting at the U.N. when country-specific human-rights reports are presented to the General Assembly’s committee that oversees human-rights affairs. The U.N. released reports on human-rights violations in Iran, North Korea, Myanmar and Palestinian territories. The council’s briefing on Myanmar sets the precedent for countries with grave rights records to be the subject of a council meeting.
China and Russia attempted to block the council briefing on grounds that it meddled in a country’s internal affairs and that the fact-finding mission’s report wasn’t objective.
A procedural vote was called and nine council members voted in favor of debate, satisfying the minimum nine-out-of-15 vote requirement for a meeting to take place. China and Russia will likely veto any action by the council on Myanmar.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., hailed the attempt to bring the issue to the council. “This is not just Burma’s problem. This is the region’s problem. This is our problem, all of us,” she said.
In keeping with the practice of the administration, she called the atrocities “ethnic cleansing” but not “genocide.” She said “justice is due” but refrained from addressing the recommendation for a referral to the International Criminal Court or a tribunal. The Trump administration has called the ICC useless and the U.S. isn’t a signatory.
A State Department report on Myanmar released in September was parallel to the U.N. report in its findings.
China’s ambassador, Ma Zhaoxu, condemned the meeting, saying it constituted a “willful interference in the internal matters of a sovereign nation.”
Russia used the same argument it had deployed on the U.N.’s independent investigation into Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Vassily Nebenzia, its ambassador to the U.N., said the fact-finding mission’s report wasn’t credible because it was reported from outside of the country.
Myanmar has refused to cooperate with U.N. investigators. Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador, Hau Do Suan, told the council that “Myanmar and no one else will decide our history.”
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