Creation of UN body on Myanmar atrocities 'important step'

UN initiative seen as a blow to Myanmar's deep-seated culture of impunity
Creation of UN body on Myanmar atrocities 'important step'

Young Rohingya girls at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on Aug. 25, the first anniversary of a Myanmar military crackdown that sparked a mass exodus to camps in Bangladesh. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP)

Rights groups have lauded a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution to create an independent body to expedite criminal prosecutions against perpetrators of atrocities committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

The UNHRC passed a resolution on Sept. 27 that creates an international body to help prepare case files for future criminal proceedings.

The UNHRC's 47 members voted a resolution by 37-3 with seven abstentions. China, the Philippines and Burundi voted against the resolution drafted by the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, said the UNHRC has made an important step for justice by creating the body to pinpoint criminal responsibility for the countless atrocities in Myanmar.

"It deals a blow to Myanmar's deep-seated culture of impunity and moves victims closer to seeing Myanmar's generals held to account," Fisher said in a statement.

Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International's crisis response director, said that while the U.N. Security Council remains bogged down by politics, the UNHRC has stepped up to the challenge with this serious and constructive approach.

"It sends a clear message of solidarity to the victims and survivors as well as a stark warning to Myanmar's military that their crimes will be punished," Hassan said in a statement.

Six regional and local rights groups — Forum-Asia, Equality Myanmar, Progressive Voice, Kachin Women's Association Thailand, Women's Peace Network-Arakan and Rohingya Women Welfare Society — have also supported the UNHRC resolution.

"The establishment of a U.N. body is a ray of hope for victims and survivors of horrific atrocities in Myanmar. This will ensure that these crimes and perpetrators are not forgotten and strengthen the hope for actual trial and prosecutions in the near future," Wai Wai Nu of Women's Peace Network-Arakan said in a joint statement.

The resolution also expands a one-year mandate to an earlier U.N. fact-finding mission which said military chief Min Aung Hlaing and five other senior generals must be prosecuted for genocide and war crimes against Rohingya and other ethnic minorities.

The resolution also calls for the new mechanism to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which ruled earlier this month that it had jurisdiction to investigate the forced deportation of Rohingya from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

Min Aung Hlaing insisted on Sept. 23 that the U.N. has no right to interfere in Myanmar's sovereignty.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a Myanmar military crackdown in August 2017 began following attacks on security personnel by Rohingya insurgents.

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