Safe return of Rohingya 'impossible' amid violence, forced starvations
08 March, 2018, 01:37 | Author: Wilson Dawson
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh can not be safely returned to Myanmar because widespread and systematic violence against them amounting to ethnic cleansing is continuing, the senior United Nations official for human rights has said.
Reports of bulldozing of alleged mass graves showed a "deliberate attempt by the authorities to destroy evidence of potential worldwide crimes, including possible crimes against humanity", Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein added in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council.
Myanmar's military says it is fighting Rohingya militants and denies targeting civilians in Rakhine state.
Myanmar and Bangladesh have announced provisional plans for the Rohingya - a mostly Muslim ethnic group - to return home to Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.
"It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists", Gilmour said.
Myanmar's government spokesman did not answer repeated calls for comment on Gilmour's statement.
"A recent announcement that seven soldiers and three police officers will be brought to justice for the alleged extra-judicial killing of ten Rohingya men is grossly insufficient", he added.
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said in a statement that during a four-day visit to Bangladesh, refugees told him "credible accounts of continued killings, rape, torture and abductions, as well as forced starvation" in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine.
Pending their final report, the UN General Assembly should establish a new independent mechanism to expedite criminal proceedings in courts against those responsible, Zeid said.
Gilmour also praised the humanitarian response of Bangladesh and other global organizations to the Rohingya refugee crisis, but warned that the rainy season could leave "a devastating effect" on the refugee camps.
"I do not believe the Rohingya can be sent back", Muhith, an outspoken minister from the ruling party, said late yesterday in Dhaka after meeting with a British charity. A number of refugees reportedly told Gilmour that Rohingya attempting to leave their homes or villages "are taken away and never return".
Bangladesh and Burma made an agreement last November to repatriate the refugees, a process supposed to be completed within two years which was recently postponed.
He said that "safe, dignified and sustainable returns" of the refugees are "of course impossible under current conditions".
But the United Nations, rights groups and many Western powers have accused the army of using those attacks as a pretext to expel a minority which has faced brutal discrimination for decades.
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