Myanmar: UN rights chief warns of ‘spiral of violence’ in Rakhine state

Rohingyas who were displaced by violence in 2012 stand outside their newly-rebuilt home in the village of In Bar Yi, Rakhine State, Myamar. Photo: Julia Wallace/IRIN

29 November 2016 – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today expressed alarm over reports of serious rights violations in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state that cite allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and sexual violence, and a renewed spike in hate speech – including on social media.

OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has said the Government needs to condemn such inflammatory – potentially very dangerous – rhetoric no matter who is responsible. Failing this, there is a real risk that it could exacerbate the current spiral of violence.

On 9 October, OHCHR received reports that three Border Guard police posts in Maungdaw and Rathidaung, also part of the Rakhine State, were attacked during security operations. The High Commissioner “unequivocally condemns the reported use of violence by armed individuals in northern Rakhine state, and recognizes that this is not something the authorities can ignore.” However, Ms. Shamdasani added that it is “essential” that the Government’s attempts to restore security are “firmly grounded in international human rights laws and standards,” and are recognized by the affected population.

Likewise, offensives in Kachin and Northern Shan state continue to cause human rights violations and displacement.

“Protection of civilians and unfettered humanitarian access to conflict affected areas is critical,” underscored the UN rights chief. “Measures that may heighten the vulnerability or pose threats to the safety and security of internally displaced people – such as requiring internally displaced persons (IDPs) to cross conflict lines – must be avoided,” he added. The UN rights Office also stressed that the authorities must respect international humanitarian law and the rights of IDPs, pointing out that continued failure to do so would draw a sharp response from the international community.

The High Commissioner also regretted that, beyond the formation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state led by Kofi Annan, the Government has largely failed to act on the recommendations made in an OHCHR report in June on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.

The report documented a wide range of human rights violations and abuses against the Rohingya, including arbitrary deprivation of nationality, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, threats to life and security, denial of rights to health and education, forced labour, sexual violence and limitations to political rights, among others. It also raised the possibility that the pattern of violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity.


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