UN Names Fact-Finding Mission Members

By Reuters & The Irrawaddy 30 May 2017

The UN named a trio of independent experts on Tuesday to investigate widespread allegations of killings, rape and torture by Burma’s security forces against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State.

The international fact-finding mission will be chaired by Indira Jaising, an advocate of the Supreme Court of India, the president of the UN Human Rights Council said in a statement.

The mission will seek access to Burma, where the army last week rejected allegations of abuses during a crackdown last year which forced some 75,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. The UN urged the government to “fully cooperate” by making available the findings of its domestic investigations and by “granting full, unrestricted and unmonitored access”.

The two other members are Radhika Coomaraswamy, a human rights veteran and lawyer from Sri Lanka, and Australian activist Christopher Sidoti, said the U.N. statement, issued after private consultations within the 47-member state forum.

The Council agreed to set up the fact-finding mission last March in a resolution strongly condemning violations and calling for ensuring “full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.”

A UN report in February said Burma’s security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes in a campaign that “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing. The report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was based on extensive interviews with Rohingya survivors in Bangladesh.

Both Burma’s de facto leader State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s military commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing have rejected the team of experts.

In her State of the Union address last month Daw Aung Suu Kyi said she did not accept a fact-finding mission into Arakan State. “It does not mean we disrespect the UN,” she added, “it is just that it does not correspond with our country’s [situation].”

On the occasion of the 72nd Anniversary of Armed Forces Day last month, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing reiterated that the Rohingya population did not belong to Burma, but were interlopers from Bangladesh—and that any international political intervention on the pretext of assisting refugees from this community would threaten Burma’s sovereignty.

Last week, more than 50 civil society groups in Burma urged the government to fully cooperate with the fact finding mission, claiming it would “foster a rule-of law culture.” Last month, 23 international organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Fortify Rights, called on overseas governments to engage Burmese authorities in allowing unfettered access to the UN fact-finding mission.