This handout photo taken on January 15, 2017 shows the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee (far L-in white top), meeting Rohingya Muslim residents in the village of Pyaung Bate, near the town of Maungdaw in strife-torn Rakhine state near the Bangladesh border. (Photo by AFP)
The UN Human Rights Council has named a three-person team to probe atrocities against Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
The Geneva-based council said in a statement on Tuesday that decorated Indian lawyer and women’s rights campaigner, Indira Jaising, Sri Lanka’s former human rights chief, Radhika Coomaraswamy, and Christopher Dominic Sidoti, a prominent human rights advocate from Australia, have been appointed to lead the probe.
The team of experts is scheduled to meet soon in Geneva to chart a work plan.
It is, however, not yet clear if the group will be granted access to Rakhine state, or even be permitted to land in Myanmar.
Matthew Smith, who heads the Fortify Rights watchdog in Bangkok, which closely tracks Rakhine’s situation, said investigators appointed Tuesday were “a strong team that’s certainly up to the task.”
He said Myanmar’s government had “no defensible reason to not cooperate with this mission.”
The mission is scheduled to give the council an oral update of its findings in September.
The UN rights body agreed in March to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate widespread allegations of killings, rape and torture by security forces against the Rohingya in Rakhine.
The 47-member state forum adopted a resolution by consensus, brought by the European Union, which called for “ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.”
The resolution also called on Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to “fully cooperate with the fact-finding mission, including by making available the findings of the domestic investigations.”
The council called on Myanmar’s government to give investigators “full, unrestricted and unmonitored access to all areas.”
UN investigators, who interviewed Rohingya escapees in neighboring Bangladesh, have blamed Myanmar’s government forces for responding with a campaign of murder, gang rape and arson that they say may amount to genocide.
The photo taken on October 14, 2016 shows Myanmar’s troops traveling in trucks through Maungdaw in Rakhine state. (Photo by AFP)
In a report in February, Reuters cited two UN officials dealing with refugees fleeing violence as saying that some 1,000 Rohingya Muslims may have been killed in Myanmar’s army crackdown on the minority group.
Myanmar has long faced international condemnation for its treatment of the Rohingya. Suu Kyi, who has received the Nobel Peace Prize, has been incapable of containing the violence against the minority community.
Rights campaigners say that national efforts have not been credible, calling for an international inquiry.
Rakhine state has been under a military siege since October 2016 over a raid on a police post blamed on the Rohingya. A four-month crackdown on the minority group has seen some 75,000 Rohingya flee to Bangladesh.
Buddhist-dominated Myanmar has a history of discrimination against Muslims, considering the Rohingya illegal immigrants. Rights groups have challenged the claim, arguing that the Rohingya has historical roots in the country.