UN chief calls for accountability over Myanmar atrocities

Antonio Guterres says Myanmar has refused to cooperate with the world body
UN chief calls for accountability over Myanmar atrocities

Rohingya refugees prepare a grave on Aug. 10 for their neighbor who died that day at Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since August 2017. (Photo by Ed Jones/AFP)

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres has called for accountability over the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar which he described as one of the world's worst humanitarian and human rights crises.

During his remarks to the U.N. Security Council on Myanmar, Guterres called for international efforts to resolve the crisis which has seen more than 700,000 Rohingya flee Rakhine State to Bangladesh since a Myanmar military crackdown began in August 2017.

"Accountability is essential for genuine reconciliation between all ethnic groups and is a prerequisite for regional security and stability," said Guterres on Aug. 28.

"Regrettably, Myanmar has refused to cooperate with United Nations human rights entities and mechanisms despite repeated calls to do so, including by members of this council. 

"We have called for different accountability options to be considered. Most recently, very strong concerns have been expressed by the U.N. Independent Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar appointed by the Human Rights Council."

Guterres' remarks follow the Aug. 27 release of the mission's report which in part said senior military officials in Myanmar must be prosecuted for genocide and war crimes against Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

The report singled out Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar's military chief, and five key generals.

Guterres also visited Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh last month and he told the council that when he was there he heard several stories of horrendous persecution and suffering including "a father who saw his son shot dead in front of him."

He said it is clear that "conditions are not yet met for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return" of Rohingya refugees to "their places of origin or choice."

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the Security Council must hold those responsible for the violence to account as "the world can no longer avoid the difficult truth of what happened."

"The whole world is watching what we do next and if we will act," said Haley.

Hau Do Suan, Myanmar ambassador to the U.N., rejected the report based on concerns over the mission's "impartiality."

"The government does not condone human rights abuses, and will take action, if there is evidence of such crimes," Hau Do Suan told council members.

Zaw Htay, Myanmar's government spokesman, said it had not allowed the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission to enter the country.

"Our stance is clear and I want to say sharply that we don't accept any resolutions by the Human Rights Council," Zaw Htay was reported as saying by state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Aug. 29.

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Zaw Htay said Myanmar formed the four-member Independent Commission of Enquiry to rebut what he said are false allegations being made by the U.N. agencies and other international bodies.

Rosario Manalo, a former deputy foreign minister of the Philippines, will head the commission, which begins work this week. Commission members are meeting government officials in Naypyitaw on Aug. 29.   

The International Criminal Court is also deliberating whether it has the mandate to prosecute Myanmar officials responsible for the crackdown which the U.N. has earlier described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

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