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Myanmar rejects UN findings in Rohingya genocide report

August 29th, 2018 | Tags:
More than 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee, with many ending up in neighbouring Bangladesh. Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
Aljazeera

Myanmar's government has rejected a United Nations' report on mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya, which calls for Myanmar officials to face genocide charges over their campaign against the Muslim minority.

On Wednesday, a senior spokesperson for the government denied the UN's findings, calling the allegations false, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

"We didn't allow the FFM (the UN Fact-Finding Mission) to enter into Myanmar, that's why we don't agree and accept any resolutions made by the Human Rights Council," Zaw Htay said in the newspaper

Htay said Myanmar has "zero tolerance for human rights violations", adding that his country has an "accountability and responsibility framework regarding human rights issues."

"We shall take any action against violation of human rights", Htay said. 

He also said the country has set up its own Independent Commission of Inquiry in "response to the false allegations by the UN agencies and other international agencies".

On Monday, UN investigators said they had found Myanmar's armed forces had taken actions that "undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law", forcing more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee starting in late August 2017.

Speaking in Geneva on Monday, Marzuki Darusman, the mission's chairman, said his researchers amassed evidence based on 875 interviews with witnesses and victims, satellite imagery, and verified photos and videos. 

Marzuki said victim accounts were "amongst the most shocking human rights violations" he had come across and would "leave a mark on all of us for the rest of our lives".

Its assessment suggests crimes against the Rohingya could meet the strict legal definition used for genocide in places such as BosniaRwanda and Sudan's Darfur region.

The team cited a "conservative" estimate from aid group Reporters Without Borders that some 10,000 people had been killed in the violence, but outside investigators have had no access to the affected regions, making a precise accounting elusive, if not impossible. 

The UN report said military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, must face investigation and prosecution for "genocidal intent" in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state, as well as crimes against humanity and other war crimes in the states of Kachin and Shan.

The report singled out Myanmar's military, known as the Tatmadaw, but added that other Myanmar security agencies were also involved in abuses.

Myanmar UN Ambassador Hau Do Suan questioned the report's, saying that Myanmar "did not accept the mandate of the mission because we have our concern about the mission's impartiality."

Following the release of those findings, several countries in the UN Security Council - including the US, Britain, France and Sweden - called for Myanmar's military leaders to be held accountable.

China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, said they prefer engaging in dialogue with Myanmar in an attempt to resolve the issue.

It is currently unclear if the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction over the crisis since Myanmar is not a signatory to the court.

However, the crisis spilled over into Bangladesh, which is part of the ICC, possibly allowing for legal action to be taken.

Facebook pages

The government spokesperson also heavily criticised Facebook for its removal of the pages Myanmar's army chief and other high-ranking military officials.

"We have many questions regarding the removal of these Facebook accounts and pages, such as: why did they ban, further details on the reasons of banning and how can we retrieve these accounts and pages," Htay said.

Facebook undertook action last week, months after the UN said hate speech against the Rohingya was spread on Facebook, playing a major role in the humanitarian crisis.

Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said in March that social media had played a "determining role" in Myanmar.

"It has ... substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly, of course, a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media," he said.

At the time, Facebook said "there was no space for hate speech" on its platform.

 

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