The new UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, yesterday called for an international mechanism to collect evidence of crimes committed by the Myanmar army against the Rohingya Muslims in order to pursue prosecutions.
The new mechanism would also complement and support the preliminary examination of the ICC (International Criminal Court) prosecutor, she told the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva.
“I urge the Council to pass a resolution, and refer the matter to the General Assembly for its endorsement, so that such a mechanism can be established.”
This was Bachelet's first statement since taking the UNHRC's top office on September 1.
An Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in a report released on August 27 said there was evidence indicating “genocidal intent” by the Myanmar military against Rohingya minority and that crimes against humanity and war crimes appear to have been committed.
The UN investigators also named six top army generals, including the commander-in-chief, whom they said must be investigated and prosecuted for the above charges.
Bachelet was 23 years old when she was tortured and fled her country's dictatorship into exile. Now 66, she will face her past fighting such abuses worldwide as the new UN rights chief.
Also a former Chilean president, the UN rights chief yesterday said attacks and persecution appear to continue in Rakhine state and at least 12,000 new Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh so far this year.
In Kachin and Shan states, the Fact Finding Mission also found indications of extrajudicial execution and unlawful killings, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including against children, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, and forced labour, she said.
“The persistence of these patterns of violations underscores the total impunity accorded to the Myanmar security forces,” the UN rights chief told the 47-member Geneva forum.
The Mission has determined that many of the gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states amount to the gravest crimes under international law, she said.
Bachelet welcomed a decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC's finding that it has jurisdiction over the alleged deportations of Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity.
“This is an immensely important step towards ending impunity, and addressing the enormous suffering of the Rohingya people.
“I also welcome efforts by Member States at this Council to establish an independent international mechanism for Myanmar to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes, in order to expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts.”
She also said it was shocking that journalists involved in documenting some of the massacres have been prosecuted and given a harsh sentence.
The UN rights chief lauded Bangladesh for hosting so many refugees and for its success in poverty reduction.
The current UNHRC session, which will continue for next three weeks, will be apprised of the findings of the Fact-Finding Mission on September 18 when a fuller report containing detailed factual information and legal analysis will be published and presented.