U.N. human rights chief: Rohingya face 'textbook example of ethnic cleansing'

Rohingya refugees walk to shore in Teknaf, Bangladesh, with their belongings after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border through the Bay of Bengal on Sept. 5. (CNS photo/Mohammad Ponir Hossain, Reuters)Rohingya refugees walk to shore in Teknaf, Bangladesh, with their belongings after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border through the Bay of Bengal on Sept. 5. (CNS photo/Mohammad Ponir Hossain, Reuters)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief said Monday that the violence and injustice faced by the ethnic Rohingya minority in Myanmar, where U.N. rights investigators have been barred from entering, "seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

Speaking at the start of the latest Human Rights Council session, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein first recognized the Sept. 11 attacks anniversary then chronicled human rights concerns about Myanmar. He also spoke about rights concerns in Burundi, Venezuela, Yemen, Libya and the United States, where he expressed concerns about the Trump administration's plan to dismantle protection for younger immigrants, many of whom have lived most of the lives in the U.S.

Advertisement

Zeid, who is a Jordanian prince, denounced how "another brutal security operation is underway in Rakhine state — this time, apparently on a far greater scale." He noted the U.N. refugee agency says 270,000 people from Myanmar have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in the last three weeks, and pointed to satellite imagery and reports of "security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages" and committing extrajudicial killings.

"The Myanmar government should stop pretending that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages," he added. He called it a "complete denial of reality" that hurts the standing of Myanmar, a country that had until recently — by opening up politics to civilian control — enjoyed "immense good will."

"Because Myanmar has refused access to human rights investigators, the current situation cannot yet be fully assessed, but the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing," he said.

"The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

Zeid said he was "further appalled" by reports that Myanmar authorities planting land mines along the border.

Aside from Myanmar, although he didn't specify the countries by name, Zeid said the council should consider "the need to exclude from this body states involved in the most egregious violations of human rights." Human rights advocacy groups have cited Burundi and Venezuela in particular as countries with lamentable rights records that have seats on the 47-member rights council created by the U.N.

On Venezuela, Zeid called for an international independent investigation of possible rights violations, citing a report from his office last month that documented allegations of excessive use of force by security forces to quash protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government.

"My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed, which can only be confirmed by a subsequent criminal investigation," Zeid said, urging the council to set up an international investigation into rights violations in Venezuela.

The International Criminal Court says "crimes against humanity" involve certain types of crimes like torture, enslavement, murder and extermination used against civilians in a "widespread and systematic" way, which his report last month had alleged to have occurred in Venezuela.

The rights chief warned of "a very real danger that tensions will further escalate, with the government crushing democratic institutions and critical voices."

Overall, Zeid lamented how the world has grown "darker and dangerous" since he took office three years ago.

Syria and Iraq, two countries that have been longtime staples of concern from U.N. human rights chiefs, received only passing mention in his address — a testament to the broad concerns about today's world.
 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, is passing by a 2-1 margin with most of the votes counted.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018
The coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII is seen during a ceremony in Vittorio Veneto Square after its arrival in Bergamo, Italy, May 24. The body of the late pope left the Vatican on May 24 to be displayed in his home region until June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early on May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.