YANGON: The Myanmar government on Monday (Mar 13) announced its rejection of the suggestion that it form a commission of inquiry (COI) to investigate alleged atrocities against the Rohingya people.
Speaking at the United Nations’ (UN) 34th regular session of the Human Rights Council, the country’s UN Permanent Representative in Geneva, Htin Lynn said the government is addressing the allegations seriously, but dismissed the term “crimes against humanity” as “it was envisaged based on unverified, intentional and one-sided allegations”.
Htin Lynn said such a term should be used with “great prudence and wisdom and can only be founded on legal and judicial determination”.
He also assured that even though the country has objected to the formation of a COI, “it doesn’t mean that we condone impunity”.
The Rakhine situation is “very complicated in nature”, he said, before reiterating the country’s call on the international community to “show greater understanding”.
Htin Lynn’s words came after UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee made an oral presentation on the human rights situation in Myanmar, in which she reiterated her call for a COI.
Lee acknowledged that Myanmar has set up several commissions to review the situation in the Rakhine state, but said she does not believe that they have discharged their investigative obligations.
One national commission is a 13-member government-appointed team led by Vice-President Myint Swe, a former military general. The commission includes members such as the current police chief and a retired minister.
Lee questioned then to what extent the investigations will be prompt, thorough, independent and impartial.
She also said that the national commission does not appear to have a “robust methodology or policies in place to address key issues such as witness protection or documentation of evidence”.
To achieve a fully democratic society, “no stones must be left unturned”, said Lee.
Mr Htin Lynn suggested that the Rohingyas who have experienced human rights violations travel to Myanmar to give evidence in legal proceedings.
However, Lee called this “problematic” and said she was concerned what international protection could be provided for such victims, highlighting that there is “no existing protection framework for victims and witnesses”.
Since Oct 9, when attackers targeted three border posts in Rakhine and killed nine security personnel, the government has locked down the entire Maungdaw district in that state and conducted a clearance operation.
More than 74,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, while more than 20,000 Rohingyas have been newly displaced within Rakhine, the UN reported.
The four-month-long operation has also triggered allegations security forces are committing atrocities such as summary killings, gang rapes, torture and arson against the Rohingyas.
Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingyas, identifying them instead as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
About 50 UN representatives from various organisations and nations such as the UK, US, China and Japan spoke at the session regarding the human rights situation in Myanmar.
Many such as Iraq, the Netherlands and Denmark supported the call for a commission of inquiry, demanding for an independent investigation to be conducted in a transparent manner.
However, others like China and North Korea have not been supportive of such a call, saying the Rakhine issue is part of Myanmar’s internal affairs.
The China UN representative said the international community should “respect Myanmar’s sovereignty and national conditions, view the human rights situation in a comprehensive, objective and impartial manner, give Myanmar more time and patience”.
The Chinese representative went on to say that “ethnic disputes in areas such as Rakhine are Myanmar’s internal affairs.”
The North Korea UN representative said the Myanmar situation represents the “politicisation and selectivity of human rights”, adding they are “unexceptionally misused as a means to infringe upon the sovereignty, interfering internal affairs and pressure the concerned country, under the pretext of human rights”.