Myanmar events ‘bear hallmarks of genocide’: UN expert

GENEVA (AFP) – A top UN rights expert warned Monday that the crackdown on Myanmar’s Rohingya minority bears “the hallmarks of genocide” and insisted the government should be held accountable.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago amid accounts of arson, murder and rape at the hands of soldiers and vigilante mobs in the country. Myanmar has vehemently denied US and UN allegations of ethnic cleansing, insisting it was responding to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in late August.

But on Monday, UN special rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee suggested that term was not strong enough. “I am becoming more convinced that crimes committed… bear the hallmarks of genocide, and call in the strongest terms for accountability,” she told the UN Human Rights Council.

The South Korean academic, who has been barred from visiting Myanmar, voiced alarm at “credible reports” of widespread indiscriminate killings, including by burning people alive. She pointed to “conservative estimates” that at least 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the first month of violence alone.

Lee echoed a call from UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last week for the creation of a new international probe tasked with preparing criminal indictments over atrocities committed in Myanmar.

Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. – AFP