The UN Human Rights Council has appointed a three-person fact-finding mission to investigate alleged atrocities committed by Myanmar security forces, despite the Myanmar government’s opposition to the move.
The mission includes Indian lawyer Indira Jaising, Sri Lanka’s former human rights chief Radhika Coomaraswamy, and Australian human rights advocate Christopher Dominic Sidoti. Ms. Jaising will serve as chair of the mission.
Welcoming the move, Fortify Rights CEO Matthew Smith said: “The military committed a widespread and systematic attack on Rohingya civilians, and there’s been no accountability. The authorities continue to deny violations took place, and survivors continue to suffer needlessly, so this mission has its work cut out for itself. It’s an impressive team of experts fully up to the task.”
The Human Rights Council decided to dispatch an international fact-finding mission to Myanmar on March 24 to “establish facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State.”
The 47-member body mandated the members of the mission to look into allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, inhuman treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, and unlawful destruction of property.
The members of the mission are mandated to ensure full accountability for the perpetrators of these acts and justice for the victims, according to a UN press release.
The Human Rights Council has encouraged the Myanmar government to cooperate with the mission by making the findings of domestic investigations available and by granting full, unrestricted, and unmonitored access to all areas and interlocutors.
However, the government has dissociated itself from the Council’s resolution to establish the mission, and both State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing have publicly opposed the mission.
Dozens of civil society organizations have called on the Myanmar government to reverse its position and cooperate.
If the government refuses to cooperate, the mission is expected to conduct its investigation among the tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
As another alternative, Smith from Fortify Rights also called on UN agencies operating inside Myanmar to aid the mission: “We assume the mission will have the full cooperation at least of UN agencies in the country and others operational in Rakhine State. That will be important. But it’s not a given. UN agencies don’t typically share information with each other, let alone an outside body, and that’s a problem the UN leadership needs to fix.”
He added: “It’s important for the mission to look into the situation not only in Rakhine but also in Kachin and Shan states, at least. The recent torture video makes clear how serious the situation is on the ground.”
The members plan to meet in Geneva in the coming weeks to set an agenda. Experts in forensics and gender-based violence are also being assembled to support the mission.
The fact-finding mission is expected to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council in September and a full report in March 2018.