UN gives Myanmar 30 days to accept human rights investigators

Members of the UN Security Council delegation meet Rohingya villagers in Maungdaw, Rakhine State. Photo: MOI / Han Lin Naing

The UN Security Council has given Myanmar 30 days to respond to a request for the country to allow UN experts to investigate alleged atrocities against Rohingya civilians in Rakhine State.

The Security Council’s request came in the form of a letter sent to the Myanmar government on May 31, a month after council officials visited sections of Rakhine State from which Rohingya villagers had been displaced by Myanmar security forces last year. Myanmar officials who accompanied the Security Council delegation said the members “didn’t believe anything” from the government side and seemed to have been “swayed” by accounts of “killings, gang rapes, and throwing living children onto fires.”

At the end of the trip, the delegation said that although the Myanmar government had agreed to investigate these claims, the UN still expected its own experts to be involved because “only the UN has the capacity and expertise to assist and support” the government in dealing “with a crisis of such scale.”

The May 31 letter reiterated this expectation, saying: “Investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and abuses and holding accountable perpetrators of violence, with involvement of the international community…would turn this commitment into concrete action.”

The letter also contained the 30-day suggested response time.

Last year, the Myanmar government previously banned a fact-finding mission set up by the UN Human Rights Council and UN rights rapporteur Yanghee Lee. Christine Schraner Burgener, the new UN envoy for Myanmar, is now planning her first visit to the country.

Myanmar has consistently denied allegations of atrocities following controversial internal investigations and maintains that its operations in northern Rakhine State have been aimed at uprooting “extremist Bengali terrorists.”

This morning, the Myanmar government signed an agreement with the UN Development Programme and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees “to establish a framework for cooperation between the UN and the Government aimed at creating conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh and for helping to create improved and resilient livelihoods for all communities living in Rakhine State.”

The text of the agreement has not been made public.

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