Human RightsMyanmar

Suu Kyi could face Rohingya genocide charges: UN official


The UN human rights chief says those behind the horrific crimes against Rohingya Muslims should be brought to justice, adding he doesn’t rule out the possibility that Myanmar’s leader and military face genocide charges in court in the future.

“Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high level,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in an interview with the BBC, which will be aired later on Monday.

Backed by Myanmar’s government and Buddhist majority, the military launched yet another heavy-handed crackdown against the Muslim minority in Rakhine State on August 25, using a number of armed attacks on military posts as the pretext.

Over that past three months, government troops, apart from raping, have been committing killings, making arbitrary arrests, and carrying out mass arson attacks to destroy houses in predominantly-Rohingya villages in Rakhine.

Only in its first month, the clampdown, called by the UN and prominent rights group an “ethnic cleansing campaign,” killed some 6,700 Rohingya Muslims, including more than 700 children, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Rohingya Muslim refugees queue for relief supplies at the Naybara refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo by AFP)


Almost 870,000 Rohingya Muslims have so far been forced to flee to Bangladesh. About 660,000 of them only arrived after August 25.

Ra’ad al-Hussein further described the Myanmar military’s attacks against the Rohingya Muslims as “well thought out and planned,” saying he had asked the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on the phone to stop the military operations there well before the fresh outbreak of violence in January, but to no avail.

“The elements suggest you cannot rule out the possibility that acts of genocide have been committed,” Zeid added.

Genocide is known as the “crime of crimes.” The United Nations defines the term as acts committed with intent to destroy a particular group under a convention signed decades ago.

“It’s very hard to establish because the thresholds are high,” the UN official said. “For obvious reasons, if you’re planning to commit genocide you don’t commit it to paper and you don’t provide instructions.”

“But it wouldn’t surprise me in the future if the court were to make such a finding on the basis of what we see,” the senior UN official added.

Zeid had already called the campaign against the Rohingya “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and asked rhetorically if anyone could rule out “elements of genocide.”

Rohingya Muslim women and children sail on an improvised raft across Naf River to reach Bangladesh November 29, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)


The Myanmarese government, however, denies committing atrocities against the Rohingya people and has even rejected UN criticism for its “politicization and partiality.”

With the Myanmar government’s “flippant” response to the serious concerns raised by the world community, Zeid added, he was worried the crisis unfolding in Rakhine “could just be the opening phases of something much worse.”

The UN official further slammed Suu Kiye for failing to use the term “Rohingya” in reference to the country’s minority Muslims, who are viewed as immigrants from Bangladesh and denied citizenship.

“To strip their name from them is dehumanizing to the point where you begin to believe that anything is possible,” he said.

Zeid also said he believed Myanmar’s military was emboldened by the international community’s failure to take action against an earlier wave of violence in Rakhine back in 2016.

“I suppose that they then drew a conclusion that they could continue without fear,” he said.

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