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Investigation into ongoing HR violations in Burma’s Arakan (Rakhine) State

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay Photo: unspecial.org
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday called for a “prompt, independent” investigation into ongoing human rights violations in Burma’s Arakan (Rakhine) State after ongoing violence between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.


“We have been receiving a stream of reports from independent sources alleging discriminatory and arbitrary responses by security forces, and even their instigation of and involvement in clashes,” said Commissioner Navi Pillay said.

“Reports indicate that the initial swift response of the authorities to the communal violence may have turned into a crackdown targeting Muslims, in particular members of the Rohingya community.”

Meanwhile, Tomas Quintana, the UN expert on human rights in Burma, will visit the country for four days starting on Tuesday, at the invitation of the government.Quintana will visit Arakan State for one day said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in a statement on Friday. Quintana will report his findings to the UN Human Rights Council, OHCHR said.

The violence in Arakan State in western Burma has claimed up to 78 lives and thousands of homes and businesses were burned during June.

High Commissioner Pillay said, “The government has a responsibility to prevent and punish violent acts, irrespective of which ethnic or religious group is responsible, without discrimination and in accordance with the rule of law.”

Pillay expressed dismay at the derogatory language used against the Rohingya by state-run media, some independent media, and social networking websites.

She noted earlier commitments by the government that said it would conduct an investigation and a recent fact-finding mission by the Myanmar Human Rights Commission.
 
“I also welcome the government's decision to allow the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar access to Rakhine State during his planned mission to Myanmar next week. It is important that those affected from all communities in Rakhine are able to speak freely to the Special Rapporteur,” the High Commissioner said.

“But while he will be able to make an initial assessment during his one-day visit, this is no substitute for a fully-fledged independent investigation,” she said.

She also called on Burmese national leaders to speak out against discrimination, the exclusion of minorities and racist attitudes, and in support of equal rights for all, and stressed that the United Nations was making an effort to protect and assist all communities in Rakhine State.

“Prejudice and violence against members of ethnic and religious minorities run the risk of dividing the country in its commendable national reconciliation efforts, undermine national solidarity, and upset prospects of peace-building,” she said.

This week, the European Commission, the US, Asean, Islamic organizations and Quintana, the UN special human rights reporter, have called for access to western Burma by humanitarian groups and for a credible investigation.

Earlier this week, 58 civil society groups condemned what it said is a “wave of abuse launched by state authorities in Myanmar against the Rohingya community,” in a statement released on Tuesday.

It also charged Bangladesh with flouting international law in its attempts to prevent fleeing Rohingya from entering the country.

The coalition group – led by Refugees International, the Arakan Project, and the Equal Rights Trust – issued a series of recommendations that were delivered to the governments of Burma and Bangladesh on Tuesday.

“In Myanmar, what began as inter-communal violence has evolved into large scale state-sponsored violence against the Rohingya,” said the statement.

“Many Rohingya continue to be victims of violence and cannot leave their homes for fear of persecution, and are thus deprived of their livelihood and most basic needs,” said the advocacy groups. “The urgent humanitarian needs of those displaced (IDPs) – including those not in IDP camps – are not being adequately met and there is concern that those displaced will not be allowed to return to their homes as soon as it is safe to do so, thus creating a situation of protracted displacement.”

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