United Nations seeks access for probe in Myanmar, talks of 'possible genocide'

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra`ad Al Hussein speaks at the Central American University, where he paid his respects to the six Jesuit priests and two employees who were killed by government military forces during the Salvadoran Civil W

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The top United Nations human rights official is condemning the persecution, and widespread and systematic brutal attacks against the Rohingya in Myanmar, suggesting this treatment might verge on genocide.

Pramila Patten, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, who interviewed survivors in Bangladesh in November, said: "I heard the most heart-breaking and horrific accounts of sexual atrocities reportedly committed in cold blood out of a lethal hatred of these people exclusively on the basis of their ethnicity and religion".

Speaking in Geneva at a special session on Myanmar at the U.N. Human Rights Council, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein says genocide is a legal concept and only a competent court can determine whether the actions of the government of Myanmar against the Rohingya qualify as genocide.

Geneva: The UN rights chief on Tuesday for a fresh worldwide investigation into Myanmar's abuses against its Rohingya Muslim minority, warning of possible "elements of genocide".

More than 600,000 Rohingya are languishing in Bangladeshi refugee camps after fleeing a brutal Myanmar army campaign launched in late August.

Witnesses in refugee camps reported a slew of crimes - saying people have burned others to death, carried out murders, raped women and girls and burned homes, schools, markets and mosques.

Slamming the government's inaction, Zeid warned that "by continuing to dehumanise the Rohingya, the state authorities will fuel even wider levels of violence in the future, drawing in communities from across the region".

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He told the session that his country was hosting almost one million "Myanmar nationals" following summary executions and rapes "as a weapon of persecution".

Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said his country held Myanmar's military leadership "accountable" for its crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority, adding that the US was "extraordinarily concerned" by the situation. He also is calling for an global investigation to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes.

Mainly Buddhist Myanmar denies the Muslim Rohingya are its citizens and considers them foreigners.

While not using the name Rohingya, the ambassador said any "dehumanization" of people in Myanmar "could be an act of extremist individuals".

Prosecutions for the violence and rapes against Rohingya "appear extremely rare", Zeid said.

Marzuki Darusman, head of the independent global fact-finding mission, said by video from Malaysia: "We will go where the evidence leads us".

Myanmar has not granted the investigators access to Rakhine, the northern state from which the Rohingya have fled, he said.

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