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Dhaka welcomes UN mission on Rohingyas

By Mizan Rahman
June 2, 2017

Dhaka -- Bangladesh has welcomed the formation of a three-member fact-finding mission by the United Nations Human Rights Commission to look into allegations of atrocities recently committed by the Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya populace in Rakhine state.

Foreign ministry officials said in Dhaka, “There is doubt whether the mission will be allowed into Myanmar to carry out its activities as per its mandate because the government of Myanmar has already all but rejected it”.

“Despite this, we welcome the move. We hope that good sense will prevail and Myanmar will co-operate with the mission formed by the global body,” he said.

Echoing the sentiment of his superior, another official said, “It’s a positive step. Let’s hope Myanmar will co-operate with the UN mission to find out the truth.”

President of the UN Human Rights Council, ambassador Joaquin Alexander Maza Martelli, announced the appointment of Indira Jaising (India), Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka) and Christopher Dominic Sidoti (Australia) to serve as three members of the fact-finding mission on Myanmar.

Jaising will serve as the chair of the three-member mission, said a press release issued by the global human rights body.

On March 24, 2017, at its 34th session, the council decided to urgently dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the president of the council, 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”, it said.

Through human rights council resolution 34/22, the 47-member body mandated the members of the mission to look into, allegations of arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, forced displacement and unlawful destruction of property, said the release.

The mission members, who will serve in their personal capacities, are also mandated to carry out their work with a view to ensuring full accountability of the perpetrators of these acts and justice for the victims.

India and China had disassociated from the resolution when it was passed.

The council also encouraged the government of Myanmar to fully co-operate with the fact-finding mission by making available the findings of their domestic investigations and by granting full, unrestricted and unmonitored access to all areas and interlocutors, said the release.

The council also stressed the need for the mission to be provided with all necessary resources and expertise necessary to carry out its mandate.

The fact-finding mission is scheduled to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-sixth session in September this year and a full report at its 37th session in March, 2018, it said.
The members of the mission are expected to meet in Geneva in the coming weeks to plan their agenda and work for the months ahead, the release said.

Any official reaction from the Myanmar side is not yet available, said the officials of the foreign ministry in Dhaka.

But, they said that right after the passage of the resolution moved by the European Union to constitute such a mission, Aung San Suu Kyi, state councillor and de-facto leader of Myanmar, rejected such a mission.

On May 2, at a joint press conference in Brussels with Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Federica Mogherini said the fact-finding mission is focusing on establishing the truth about the past and that she believes this can contribute to establishing the facts.

Asked about the move, Suu Kyi, said: “We are disassociating ourselves from the resolution because we don’t think the resolution is in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground.”

The remarks of the state councillor clearly indicate reluctance on the part of Myanmar to allow the fact-finding mission into Myanmar, said the officials.

In the past, the Myanmar government has refused to allow UN teams into the country, they said.

The officials hinted that eventually if Myanmar does not allow the fact- finding mission, then the mission may be dispatched to Bangladesh to find the truth by interviewing those Rohingyas who had to flee to Cox’s Bazaar to escape the brutality of the Myanmar security forces and local Buddhist population in the Rakhine state.

Bangladesh will be happy to facilitate such a trip as it did in case of UN special rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee, the foreign ministry officials said.

The UN team that visited Bangladesh after being refused entry into Myanmar in its report prepared based on interviewing Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar said that Myanmar’s security forces committed mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against Rohingyas that might amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Special rapporteur Lee also voiced similar views after her visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Since October, 2016, more than 70,000 Rohingyas have crossed into Bangladesh adding to the 3,00,000 Rohingyas already living in the country for decades.

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