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Human Rights Council opens special session on the situation of human rights of the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State in Myanmar

Human Rights Council
MORNING

5 December 2017

The Human Rights Council this morning opened its twenty-seventh special session on the human rights situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

Opening statements were delivered by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Catalina Aguilar Devandas, Chairperson of the Coordinating Committee of the Special Procedures, Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, and Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict.

In his opening statement, Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, President of the Human Rights Council, reminded that the request by Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia for a special session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in the Rakhine state of Myanmar had been received on 28 November 2017.  The request had been supported by the following States Members of the Council: Albania, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.  The request had also been supported by the following observer States: Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czechia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, State of Palestine, Sudan, Sweden, and Turkey.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned all acts of violence in Myanmar, whether committed by the security forces or the insurgents.  The sheer number of people forced to leave their homes was staggering: by 2 December 2017 an estimated 626,000 refugees had fled to Bangladesh, with people continuing to flee Rakhine state.  It was important to recognize the fact that the Rohingya community had endured progressive intensification of discrimination over the past 55 years.  Myanmar’s Citizenship Law denied the Rohingya equal access to citizenship, rendering the vast majority stateless, while the Rohingya children had not been issued birth certificates since at least 1990.  In view of the scale and gravity of the allegations, the Human Rights Council should make a recommendation to the General Assembly to establish a new impartial and independent mechanism, complementary to the work of the Fact-Finding Mission, to assist individual criminal investigations of those responsible.

Catalina Aguilar Devandas, Chairperson of the Coordinating Committee of the Special Procedures, who also spoke on behalf of Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, reminded that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims had fled to Bangladesh from northern Rakhine and hundreds of their villages had been torched and burnt down since the alleged attacks by Rohingya militants on 25 August 2017.  There had been credible allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses committed against the Rohingya, including extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement.  The Myanmar Government’s apparent acquiescence in incitement of hatred and the condoning of intimidation and attacks against Rohingya families by other ethnic and religious groups was alarming.

Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, in a video statement, said that the Mission had conducted in-depth interviews with members of the Rohingya and other groups in the camps around Cox’s Bazar and elsewhere.  Victims and witnesses had recounted acts of extreme brutality against the Rohingya, especially since August 2017.  Urgent action was needed to immediately cease the violence in Rakhine state, with credible guarantees of non-recurrence.  There was a need for an official, nationwide campaign to counter the rise of hate speech and incitement to violence, and to repatriate only with full guarantees of safety and human rights protection, under the supervision of international and national human rights monitors and the relevant United Nations agencies.

Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, commended the Council for holding this critical and timely special session, and also commended the people and the Government of Bangladesh who had opened their borders, homes and hearts to Rohingya, the most persecuted minority in the world.  The stories heard from the Rohingya were heart-breaking and simply unimaginable, acts of unmitigated brutality against women and girls.  Those acts were not random, and included rape, gang rape by multiple soldiers, forced nudity, and sexual slavery and captivity by the military.    The establishment of an independent body to ensure accountability was indispensable. 

Htin Lynn, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking as a concerned country, reaffirmed the readiness of Myanmar to increase cooperation with the wider United Nations system in support of national efforts to improve the situation in Rakhine state.  It was imperative to first concentrate on the immediate challenge of repatriating the people displaced.  Myanmar had concluded a bilateral agreement on the return of displaced persons from Rakhine state with Bangladesh on 23 November 2017.  Mr. Lynn reassured that there would be no camps of returnees, but rather places for returnees until arrangements were made for their return to their places of origin.  He added that casting a negative light on the efforts of Government of Myanmar was not helpful. 

Mohammed Shahriar Alam, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the overwhelming support for the call to convene the special session of the Human Rights demonstrated the international community’s grave concern about the human rights situation of the Rohingya Muslim population and of other minorities in Rakhine state of Myanmar.  Bangladesh remained deeply concerned that Myanmar had not conducted any credible national investigation into alleged gross human rights violations.  Only sustained international pressure on Myanmar could ensure the fulfillment of its various commitments.  

In the ensuing discussion, speakers voiced deep concern about the reports of serious human rights violations against the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar, including grave cases of violence, especially against women and children in Rakhine state.  While condemning the 25 August 2017 attacks on Myanmar’s security forces, speakers strongly condemned the crimes of ethnic cleansing and atrocities committed by extremists and elements associated with the Government forces against the Rohingya minority.  They called on the Government of Myanmar to take all measures to provide justice to victims, ensure accountability, and to end impunity.  The Government of Myanmar should fully cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and grant it access to all areas and interlocutors. 

Speaking in the general debate were United Kingdom, Netherlands on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, Estonia on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Denmark on behalf of the Nordic Countries, Oman on behalf of the League of Arab States, Slovenia, Belgium, China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, United States, Croatia, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Iraq, Brazil, Albania, Indonesia, Paraguay, Botswana, Nigeria, Qatar, Philippines, Ghana, Tunisia, Republic of Korea, France, Canada, Finland, Thailand, Liechtenstein, Malaysia and Ireland.  

The Council will resume the special session today at 3 p.m. and will then take action on a draft resolution before closing the special session.

Opening Statements

JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, President of the Human Rights Council, said that the request by Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia for a special session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in Rakhine state of Myanmar had been received on 28 November.  The request had been supported by the following States Members of the Council: Albania, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.  The request had also been supported by the following observer States: Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czechia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, State of Palestine, Sudan, Sweden, and Turkey.

ZEID RA'AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned all acts of violence in Myanmar, whether committed by the security forces or the insurgents.  The sheer number of people forced to leave their homes was staggering: by 2 December, an estimated 626,000 refugees had fled to Bangladesh, with people continuing to flee Rakhine state.  It appeared that more than half the estimated number of Rohingya living in Rakhine state had been forced to flee, and it was impossible to assess the number who might have been detained, disappeared and killed, or had died en route.  Credible reports indicated widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal attacks against the Rohingya community by the Myanmar security forces.  Faced with the refusal of the Myanmar authorities to give the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights access to Rakhine state, the High Commissioner had sent, over the past year, three teams to Bangladesh to monitor the situation and interview refugees.  Witnesses in different locations had given concordant reports of acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya, including deliberately burning people to death inside their homes; murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rape of women and girls; and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques.  In some locations, witnesses had reported that men had been separated from women and children and taken away by security forces.  There were credible indications that those violent campaigns had targeted Rohingyas because they were Rohingya, said the High Commissioner, noting that similarities in the patterns and modus operandi, over time and a large geographic area, seemed indicative of organized planning of a campaign of violence. 

High Commissioner Zeid went on to underline the importance of recognizing the historical context and the fact that the Rohingya community, which claimed long-standing roots in Rakhine state, had endured progressive intensification of discrimination over the past 55 years.  Myanmar’s Citizenship Law denied the Rohingya equal access to citizenship, rendering the vast majority stateless, while the Rohingya children had not been issued birth certificates since at least 1990.  Following the 2012 violence, discrimination against the Rohingya had sharply increased: not a single Muslim had been allowed to attend university in Rakhine state, and the Rohingya had been stripped of their identity cards, their right to vote and their right to form political parties.  The four laws adopted in 2015 known as the Protection of Race and Religion package, were widely viewed as targeting Rohingya Muslims, and also had serious repercussions for the rights of other religious minorities.  Incitement to hatred and violence against Rohingya had become very widespread, and there had been very little action by the authorities to counter the prevailing vision among many in Myanmar, of this community as barely human, undeserving of their human rights, and a threat to be destroyed.  Refusal by international and local actors to name the Rohingya as Rohingya, to recognize them as a community and respect their right to self-identification, was yet another humiliation and created a shameful paradox: they were denied a name while being targeted for who they were.  Considering the decades of statelessness and systemic and systematic discrimination against Rohingya; policies of segregation, exclusion and marginalization; long-standing patterns of violations and abuses with little or no access to justice; and the recent allegations of killing, stabbing, beating to deaths, burning of houses with families inside, rape and sexual abuse, and forced displacement and systematic destruction of villages, homes and livelihoods – given all this, how could anyone rule out that elements of genocide might be present, asked the High Commissioner.

In view of the scale and gravity of the allegations, the Council should make a recommendation to the General Assembly to establish a new impartial and independent mechanism, complementary to the work of the Fact-Finding Mission, to assist individual criminal investigations of those responsible.  It would also be essential to address the rights of other minorities in Rakhine, including the Kaman, Mro, Hindu and Daignet communities.  By continuing to dehumanize the Rohingya, the state authorities would fuel even wider levels of violence in the future, drawing in communities from across the region, eventually forcing a confessional confrontation and destroying the hopes for the country.  “We cannot afford to hear that historical and tragic refrain, one more time, that no one knew it would turn out to be like this – what a lie that would be.  I urge the Council to take appropriate action to stop this madness now”, concluded the High Commissioner.

CATALINA AGUILAR DEVANDAS, Chairperson of Coordinating Committee of the Special Procedures, speaking also on behalf of YANGHEE LEE, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, reminded that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims had fled to Bangladesh from northern Rakhine and hundreds of their villages had been torched and burnt down since the alleged attacks by Rohingya militants on 25 August 2017.  There had been credible allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses committed against the Rohingya, including extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement.  The Coordinating Committee was alarmed by the Myanmar Government’s apparent acquiescence in incitement of hatred and the condoning of intimidation and attacks against Rohingya families by other ethnic and religious groups.  There seemed to be little sympathy for the Rohingya in Myanmar; they were not considered as indigenous to the country and were perceived as having no rights.  It had been widely reported that the majority of the Rohingyas were without identity documents.  Such documents had been either revoked, withdrawn or invalidated by the Myanmar Government over the years, especially after the implementation of the 1982 Citizenship Law.  The repatriation agreement avoided the term “Rohingya” and it avoided referring to those who had fled from Myanmar as “refugees.”  The repatriation agreement also notably made no reference to the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission chaired by Kofi Annan.  The Commission had recommended that the Government ensure freedom of movement for all people in Rakhine state, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or citizenship status. 

The Myanmar Government had undertaken to guarantee freedom of movement for the returnees based on existing laws and regulation which had long been alleged to be part of the institutionalized discriminatory structure keeping the Rohingyas segregated, excluded and marginalized.  The Myanmar Government had insisted that the issue of return was a bilateral one, completely ignoring the question of what had caused the Rohingyas to flee in the first place, and had made no concrete commitment to engage or to seek the assistance of international partners mandated by Member States of the United Nations to address related issues, such as refugee and returnee rights, and statelessness.  There had to be independent and impartial actors on the ground to assess the situation in Rakhine state prior to the return of the Rohingyas from Bangladesh to ensure that said returns would be safe, dignified and sustainable.  The Coordinating Committee called on the Government of Myanmar to stop all violence against the Rohingya community and halt the ongoing persecution and serious human rights violations.  There should be an impartial accounting of what had happened and for those responsible to answer for their actions.  Myanmar should ensure full and unfettered access of human rights monitors, including the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission.  

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Chair of the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, in a video statement said that he had told the Council in September that the Fact-Finding Mission would follow international best practices in human rights fact-finding, and they were doing so.  The Mission would continue to uphold its independence and objectivity, and it would go where the evidence led it.  While devoting considerable energy to the current crisis, the focus of the Mission was on the facts and circumstances of allegations in Myanmar as a whole since 2011.  The Mission aimed to present to the Human Rights Council a final report that gave an accurate assessment of that situation in its proper context.  The Mission had recently issued a public call for submissions, and it encouraged everyone with relevant factual information to respond to the call.  The Mission had requested full and unhindered access to the country, and it maintained hope that it would be granted access early in 2018.  That said, the lack of access had not impeded its work, apart from denying it the Myanmar Government’s perspective.  The Mission had already collected significant information from outside the country.   It had conducted in-depth interviews with members of the Rohingya and other groups in the camps around Cox’s Bazar and elsewhere.  Victims and witnesses had recounted acts of extreme brutality against the Rohingya, especially since August 2017.  The Mission had heard numerous testimonies alleging killings, arbitrary detentions, sexual violence, torture, disappearances, and arson of entire villages.  The number of casualties might be very high indeed.  Some of the most distressing interactions had been with children who constituted more than half of the camp population.  They had told the Mission of witnessing their fathers killed, their mothers and sisters raped, and their siblings burned to death.  The allegations were numerous and many of extreme severity.  Some had concluded that genocide or crimes against humanity had taken place. 

The Fact-Finding Mission was very concerned over the surge in dehumanizing ethnic slurs, which were commonly used on social media in Myanmar to refer to the Rohingya people, fanning racial and religious hatred.  In interviews with victims of the recent violence, the Fact-Finding Mission had asked what they wanted for the future.  Generally, they wished to return to Myanmar, but conditioned on guarantees that their personal security and human rights would be protected.  They had asked that their citizenship and identity be recognized, that they be allowed to return to their villages of origin and compensated for their destroyed property.  Others could not imagine going back because they had nothing – no homes, no family – to return to.  With news spreading in the camps in southern Bangladesh about the bilateral repatriation arrangement, there was high anxiety among the Rohingya there about the possibility of being forced back to the same conditions that they had been forced to flee.  The Mission thus asked the two concerned Governments to give the Rohingya reason to lay their anxiety to rest.  The Mission was making every effort to fulfil its mandate with the required rigour, to hear all sides and to verify the facts.  However, urgent action was needed to immediately cease the violence in Rakhine state, with credible guarantees of non-recurrence.  There was a need for an official, nationwide campaign to counter the rise of hate speech and incitement to violence, and to repatriate only with full guarantees of safety and human rights protection and under the supervision of international and national human rights monitors and the relevant United Nations agencies.  Forced repatriation should not be allowed, nor repatriation to unsuitable sites or camps for displaced persons, or any re-victimization of the returnees.  The Fact-Finding Mission had suggested to Myanmar to liaise with it through a task force, composed of representatives of the relevant ministries and the security forces.  The proposed task force would be a means of direct communication by which to receive the official account of these events, including from the military, Mr. Darusman concluded. 

PRAMILA PATTEN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, commended the Council for holding this critical and timely special session, and also commended the people and the Government of Bangladesh who had opened their borders, homes and hearts to Rohingya, the most persecuted minority in the world.  The creation of her mandate in 2009 was a recognition of sexual violence as a weapon of war, and the Special Rapporteur was a voice for the voiceless.  Learning about the scale and the magnitude of the Rohingya crisis, Ms. Patten had visited Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh to understand the situation, and to amplify the voices of survivors and bring their suffering from the shadows.  The stories heard from the Rohingya were heart-breaking and simply unimaginable, acts of unmitigated brutality against women and girls.  Those acts were not random, and included rape, gang rape by multiple soldiers, forced nudity and sexual slavery and captivity by the military.  Those reported patterns of systematic sexual violence were being used as a tool of dehumanization and collective punishment.  Some women reported witnessing acts of extreme brutality, and told of women and girls being tied to a rock or a tree with multiple soldiers raping them to death.  “Slaughter” and “rape” were the words most heard in the accounts of survivors, said the Special Rapporteur, and killing of babies was a recurrent feature in the accounts.  Babies were being killed long before August 2017, and women reported soldiers regularly coming to villages, drowning babies in village wells, and poisoning water. 

There were women who told of their babies taken away and thrown in fires, while the women themselves were being gang raped.  All women wanted to see the perpetrators punished, and all wanted justice; some wanted to return home, to their lands, while others had nothing to return to but ashes and told Ms. Patten that the return to Myanmar would be akin to signing a death sentence.  It was essential to review the current crisis in a broader historical perspective, in which the Rohingya had been trapped in cycles of violence – this violence would repeat itself unless the underlying conditions changed, the conditions that put them at risk of torture, persecution, and displacement.  The international community should support both Myanmar and Bangladesh in a constructive manner to reach a comprehensive agreement which upheld international standards to ensure that returns were truly voluntary and that they took place in a safe and dignified manner.  This would not happen without holding perpetrators accountable for crimes they committed, including sexual violence.  In this sense, the establishment of an independent body to ensure accountability was indispensable, stressed the Special Rapporteur and offered the services and support of her office in a number of areas, including the rule of law to build the capacity of the justice sector to address sexual violence crimes.

Statements by Concerned Countries

HTIN LYNN, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking as a concerned country, reaffirmed the readiness of Myanmar to increase its cooperation with the wider United Nations system in support of national efforts to improve the situation in Rakhine state, and stressed that all efforts in the Human Rights Council should be done in the framework of the vision of cooperation agreed to by the Secretary-General, and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.  It was imperative to first concentrate on the immediate challenge of repatriating the displaced people, said Mr. Lynn, noting that Myanmar had concluded a bilateral agreement on the return of displaced persons from Rakhine state with Bangladesh on 23 November 2017, and was now finalizing the terms of reference for the joint working groups to be soon established.  The return process would be launched in two months, and the United Nations Refugee Agency, other United Nations agencies, and interested international partners would be participating in the various stages of return and resettlement.  Myanmar had a clear roadmap to address long-term challenges in Rakhine state, and the Government was implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission to find solutions to the complex issues of poverty, development, assurance of basic rights, and the promotion of trust, reconciliation and harmony.  Depicting people as animals and dehumanizing them was not a policy of the Government, but rather acts of extremist individuals; the Government was doing everything possible to address the issue.  Mr. Lynn reassured that there would be no camps of returnees, but rather there would be places for returnees until arrangements were made for return to their places of origin, and added that casting a negative light on the efforts of the Government was not helpful.  Myanmar recalled that in a course of simple social interviews, people would say what they wanted to believe and sometimes they would see what they wanted to see; allegations without a concrete body of evidence was misleading people and misleading the judgement of the situation, and was taking everyone away from the truth.

MOHAMMED SHAHRIAR ALAM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, noted that the overwhelming support for the call to convene the special session demonstrated the international community’s grave concern about the human rights situation of the Rohingya Muslim population and of other minorities in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.  Crimes committed against Rohingya included summary execution of adults and children, indiscriminate rape of women and girls, torture and detention, aerial firing on the fleeing population, and burning of houses and property.  Bangladesh remained deeply concerned that Myanmar had not conducted any credible national investigation into alleged gross human rights violations.  There was no or very limited access of the United Nations and humanitarian actors to northern Rakhine state.  Bangladesh had tried to resolve the matter bilaterally for decades, without any reciprocity since 2005.  The recent conclusion of a bilateral arrangement of return was but one component of a comprehensive long-term solution.  Bangladesh bore the burden of nearly one million Myanmar nationals, out of which 600,000 had entered Bangladesh in the past three months.  Only sustained international pressure on Myanmar could ensure the fulfillment of its various commitments.  

General Debate

United Kingdom emphasised that the international community could not ignore the desperate plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.  The United Kingdom was committed to working with international partners to resolve the crisis in Rakhine, and it called on Myanmar to stop committing crimes against the Rohingya.  International pressure would not relent until the Myanmar authorities had allowed the refugees to return safely and in dignity.  The Government of Myanmar should grant full humanitarian access to northern Rakhine state.  The authorities should cooperate fully with the Fact-Finding Mission. 

Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, condemned the reports of ongoing gross violations of human rights and abuses committed in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine state, notably against Rohingya and other minorities.  The group was deeply concerned about the dire situation of Rohingya refugees who had fled to Bangladesh, more than 620,000 of them.  It welcomed the commitment of the Government of Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state, and it called on the Government to restore safety and security for all people in Rakhine state, and to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of all refugees. 

Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, voiced concern about the reports of systematic violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar.  It called on the Government of Myanmar to cooperate fully with the Fact-Finding Mission, which had to be granted access to all areas and interlocutors.  The Government of Myanmar should fully implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state and lift all limitations on freedom of movement.  The European Union also called on Bangladesh and Myanmar to agree modalities for the safe return of refugees.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed deep concern at the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state and the atrocities perpetuated against the Rohingya community, and about the denial of access to Rakhine state for humanitarian agencies and the Fact-Finding Mission.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation believed in constructive engagement with the Government of Myanmar and called upon it to cease the abuses against the Rohingya, allow access to the Fact-Finding Mission as per its mandate, hold accountable all perpetrators, and create conditions for the sustainable return of the displaced Rohingya Muslim population to their ancestral homes in Myanmar.

Denmark, speaking on behalf of the Nordic Countries, expressed deep concern about systematic, widespread and coordinated violence against the members of ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya community.  The extremely serious accounts and reports of grave sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, and the abuse of children among the refugees arriving from Rakhine state were deeply disturbing.  Ending such violence, addressing underlying causes, and ensuring accountability and access to services should be given the highest political priority.

Oman, speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, urged the international community to take concrete steps to stop the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Rakhine state of Myanmar.  The United Nations had a pivotal role to play, and Myanmar had an obligation to fulfil the United Nations’ resolutions and ensure humanitarian access to Rakhine, secure the return of the displaced to their homes, rebuild the region, compensate victims for their losses, and hold perpetrators accountable.

Slovenia was deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation on the ground in Rakhine state and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya.  All sides should bring an immediate end to the violence in Rakhine state, while Myanmar should hold accountable all those responsible for the August 2017 attacks, put in place conditions for the safe and sustainable return of Rohingya, and immediately implement the recommendations of the Rakhine state Advisory Commission, including on the resolution of the issue of statelessness of Rohingya.

Belgium stressed the role of the Human Rights Council in addressing situations of human rights violations, and called upon Myanmar to provide equal protection to people from all communities, in Rakhine as well as in Kachin or Shan states.  Belgium welcomed efforts of Bangladesh to provide temporary shelter and relief to more than 625,000 Rohingya, who had escaped the violence, and encouraged all parties to facilitate the safe, voluntary and dignified return of the refugees.  All perpetrators of human rights violations must be brought to justice, and Myanmar should cooperate with the Council’s Fact-Finding Mission.

China condemned the violent attacks in Myanmar and supported Myanmar in upholding peace and security.  China had provided emergency assistance to both Myanmar and Bangladesh, and it took an objective and fair stance on the issue of Rakhine state.  It believed in dialogue and consultation as the only way out.  China had proposed a three-phase solution.  First, there should be a cessation of violence and a return of stability and order.  Second, the international community should encourage Bangladesh and Myanmar to work together to facilitate the repatriation of refugees.  Finally, the root causes of the conflict, namely poverty in Rakhine state, should be addressed. 

Germany expressed deep concern about the escalation in northern Rakhine state where the population continued to suffer from widespread violence and severe human rights violations.  Germany appreciated the commitment of Bangladesh to offer temporary shelter to thousands of refugees who had been forced to flee the violence.  It urged Myanmar to uphold its obligations to protect its entire population, regardless of ethnicity, religion and legal status, to bring an immediate end to all violence against the civilian population, and to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations.

Saudi Arabia called for concrete measures to be taken to end the suffering of the Rohingya population in Myanmar.  Their suffering was unprecedented in modern history.  They had fled serious human rights violations.  It called on the Government of Myanmar to fight incitement to hatred and it firmly condemned the targeting and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya.  The Government of Myanmar should redouble its efforts to put an end to the humanitarian crisis, and all Member States should adopt the proposed resolution by consensus.

United States called on Myanmar to grant access to the Fact-Finding Mission and it condemned the 25 August 2017 attack on Myanmar forces.  But nothing could justify the campaign against the Rohingya in Rakhine state, which was premeditated.  United Nations bodies had documented decades’ long attacks against other minorities in Myanmar.  The United States thus called on the Myanmar authorities to provide unfettered humanitarian access and to ensure justice for the perpetrated human rights violations.  It also called for the reform of the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law. 

Croatia expressed profound concern about the human rights situation in Myanmar, and it urged all sides to decrease tensions and to fully observe international human rights law.  Any use of force by Myanmar’s security forces had to be proportionate and it should never target the civilian population.  Unrestricted humanitarian access, including for aid workers, was essential to ensure that humanitarian assistance reached all those who desperately needed it without discrimination.  Croatia fully supported the work of the Fact-Finding Mission and its intention to seek dialogue. 

Portugal regretted the deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Rakhine state; the excessive use of force by the Myanmar security forces against Rohingya, including killings, rape and arson; and the systematic discrimination suffered by this community.  Myanmar should fully cooperate with the Council’s Fact-Finding Mission, including by granting it full and unhindered access to the country, granting full humanitarian access, ensuring the safe and dignified return of the Rohingya refugees, and taking steps to resolve the underlying cause of statelessness of the Rohingya.

Netherlands condemned serious human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar and called upon the Government to take decisive action now.  The return of refugees from Bangladesh to their places of origin must be voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable.  With more than 620,000 Rohingya displaced from Myanmar, the time to act was now, and this included ending sexual and gender-based violence, protecting civilians without discrimination, and ensuring accountability for violations.

Switzerland was deeply alarmed by violence against civilians in Rakhine state and commended Myanmar’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission chaired by Kofi Annan.  Myanmar should cooperate with the Council’s Fact-Finding Mission and grant it access to the country, guarantee unhindered access for humanitarian aid, and bring perpetrators of violations and abuses to justice, first and foremost to national courts, and in this, Switzerland stressed a complimentary role of the Fact-Finding Mission.

United Arab Emirates was concerned about the miserable conditions of more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and said that it had deployed emergency humanitarian aid in August to respond to those enormous needs.  The United Arab Emirates had also provided logistical support to humanitarian agencies operating out of Dubai and had pledged $ 7 million at the Rohingya pledging conference in October 2017.  Urgent steps must be taken to end this situation described by the High Commissioner for Human Rights as ethnic cleansing, stressed the United Arab Emirates.

Japan stressed the importance for Myanmar to restore security in Rakhine state in a manner consistent with the rule of law and with full respect for human rights; to rapidly increase humanitarian access to areas of concern; and to advance actions for the return and resettlement of displaced persons.  Myanmar should work with increased speed to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state in order to realize mid- and long-term peace and stability in the state.  Japan commended the generosity and the humanitarian perspective of Bangladesh in hosting displaced persons.

Côte d’Ivoire reminded of the subjection of the Rohingya community to serious human rights violations since 2016.  It called on the Myanmar Government to ensure the protection of human rights throughout its territory.  Refugees needed to have all of their rights re-established to avoid statelessness and to return to normality.  The international community should find a tangible solution for the crisis in Myanmar.  In that regard, Côte d’Ivoire welcomed the bilateral return agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar.  It called on the Council to adopt the proposed resolution by consensus.

Egypt stated that the situation of the Rohingya community in Myanmar merited the full attention of the Human Rights Council.  It expressed grave concern about the barbaric crimes committed against the people in Rakhine state.  The Myanmar Government had to guarantee the full rights of the Rohingya, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and hold accountable those who had committed crimes against the civilian population.  Egypt called on the international community to take concrete steps to end the suffering of the Rohingya.

Iraq remained concerned about the ongoing humanitarian crisis of the Muslim community and other minorities in Myanmar.  It strongly condemned the crimes of ethnic cleansing and atrocities committed by extremists and elements associated with the Government forces against the Rohingya minority.  It called on the Government of Myanmar to take all measures to provide justice to victims, ensure accountability, and end impunity.  Iraq also condemned the recent attacks on Myanmar’s security forces. 

Brazil voiced deep concern about the reports of serious human rights violations against the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar, including grave cases of violence, especially against women and children in Rakhine state.  The situation required measures to stop the violence, protect people, provide aid, and allow the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees to Rakhine.  In a time of migration crises in different areas of the world, Bangladesh’s decision to keep its borders open gave a positive example of solidarity with refugees.

Albania said that this meeting reflected the urgency to address the serious human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine state and the atrocities perpetuated against Rohingya Muslim community.  The cooperation of the Myanmar Government was necessary for a sustainable solution to the political and humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state, stressed Albania.  It urged Myanmar to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and allow immediate access to its experts in order to ensure a transparent and credible investigation of the alleged human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine state.

Indonesia expressed its great concern about the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state and the outbreak of violence which had forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from their homes.  Myanmar should exercise maximum restraint, protect all individuals from violence regardless of their religion and ethnicity, and continue efforts to implement all the recommendations made by Advisory Commission for Rakhine state.  Bangladesh and Myanmar should work closely to ensure a safe, voluntary and dignified return, which Indonesia stood ready to support.

Paraguay commended the generosity of the people and authorities of Bangladesh in providing protection to hundreds of thousands fleeing Rakhine state, and called upon Myanmar to take measures to investigate accusations of murder, torture, rape and arson vis-a-vis Rohingya and their property, and to ensure that those found responsible were judged and sanctioned.  Myanmar should further provide access to the Council’s Fact-Finding Mission, and the international community must continue to work to resolve the problems that had engendered this humanitarian and human rights crisis.

Botswana condemned the violation of human rights of Rohingya and stressed that this situation could not be allowed to continue without intervention and sanction by the international community.  Botswana thus stood ready to support concerted efforts aimed at bringing those responsible for human rights violations, including sexual violence, to book.  Central to the protection of Rohingya was the lack of citizenship rights and Myanmar should review its 1982 Citizenship Act to allow the enjoyment of full citizenship by Rohingya.

Nigeria stressed that the international community must not remain silent on the brutal depopulation of the Rohingya people on the basis of ethnicity and religion.  The ethnic cleansing and the violence unleashed on the Rohingya were repugnant and Nigeria unequivocally condemned this mass atrocity and called for immediate action to put an end to these human rights violations.  Nigeria stressed the primary responsibility of Myanmar to protect its population from human rights violations, irrespective of ethnic, religious or other differences.

Qatar expressed deep concern about the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which was due to the failings of the international community which had for many years ignored their plight.  The international community should put pressure on the Government of Myanmar to uphold the rights of the Rohingya fully, and to take concrete measures to prevent the deterioration of the humanitarian crisis.  It was vital that those who promoted hate speech and perpetrated crimes be held accountable. 

Philippines shared serious concern about the alleged human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine state in Myanmar, particularly reports of gender-based violence against women and children.  The crisis was deeply rooted and had a long complicated history.  It required holistic and comprehensive long-term solutions that took into account that complexity.  The Philippines welcomed the constructive bilateral engagement between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the repatriation of displaced Rohingya people to Myanmar.

Ghana condemned reports of alleged gross human rights violations and abuses committed in the Rakhine state in Myanmar against minority groups, in particular the Rohingya minority.  It condemned the use of rape as a weapon of war on Rohingya women and it urged the Government of Myanmar to launch an investigation into those cases in order to bring perpetrators to justice.  Ethnic diversity was an asset that should be celebrated rather than opposed.

Tunisia condemned the atrocious killings of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, leading to thousands of victims and displaced people.  It called on the international community to end that tragedy by compelling the Government of Myanmar to protect and fully recognize the rights of the Rohingya.  The Government of Myanmar had to cooperate with the Council and allow the Fact-Finding Mission to monitor the situation.  The scale of the humanitarian crisis required international support for Bangladesh, which hosted numerous refugees from Myanmar. 

Republic of Korea stated that it was alarmed by the fact that thousands of people had had to flee Myanmar to escape violence in a matter of months.  The safe and dignified return of these displaced persons was imperative.  It was important to make United Nations assistance available to all people in need.  The Government of Myanmar should implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state and cooperate with the international community in order to achieve peace and stability. 

France said that the documentation of violations in Myanmar was essential to taking stock of the crisis.  France encouraged Myanmar to fully cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and provide it with full access.  The international community must not remain indifferent to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population.  France stressed the importance of putting an end to violence, providing swift and unhindered access to humanitarian and human rights organizations, guaranteeing the safe return of refugees, and implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission for Rakhine state.

Canada stressed that the repatriation agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh could only be effective if key conditions were satisfied on the ground: law and order must be immediately restored in Rakhine state; systemic discrimination which fuelled incitement to hatred and violence must be stopped; and the root causes of the crisis must be addressed in order to make safe, voluntary, sustainable and dignified returns possible.  This included charting a clear path towards citizenship, as the Rohingya must not remain stateless.

Finland was alarmed by reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international actors which told of serious human rights violations and abuses committed against the Rohingya, amounting to ethnic cleansing.  It was important to establish the facts on the ground by independent human rights investigators, to hold the perpetrators accountable, and to ensure that victims had justice, health services and rehabilitation.  Finland was following closely the human rights reports from other parts of Myanmar, including on conflict-related violations in Shan and Kachin states.

Thailand was pleased to learn about the positive steps taken by Myanmar such as the establishment of the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine state.  Thailand urged Myanmar to fully implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state and to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission, including by providing it with necessary information.  Thailand had made a financial contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross for their humanitarian relief efforts in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Liechtenstein noted that the root causes of the crisis in Myanmar should be addressed, namely discriminatory practices in law, policy and practice that underpinned decades of systematic discrimination against minorities.  Accordingly, it was of utmost importance to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State without delay.  Those responsible for atrocities should be held to account.  Liechtenstein expressed grave concern at the reluctance displayed by Myanmar’s authorities in that regard.

Malaysia remained gravely concerned about the crisis largely affecting the minority Rohingya population in Myanmar and other minorities in Rakhine state.  The Human Rights Council had to engage with Myanmar to address the plight of the victims of the crisis.  It had to assist Myanmar in ensuring accountability and justice, restoring peace, and achieving a lasting solution to the problem in Rakhine state by addressing its root causes expeditiously. 

Ireland voiced deep concern about reports of serious violence and human rights violations and the consequent humanitarian crisis which had resulted in large movements of predominantly Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.  It called on Myanmar to re-establish access to humanitarian assistance to people in need.  It strongly condemned instances of sexual and gender-based violence, and urged the Government to provide access to the Fact-Finding Mission. 

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