UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee on Monday said the incidents in Rakhine state bear the hallmarks of genocide and called for accountability in the strongest terms.
Lee, who was informed late last year that her access to the country was denied, also expressed serious concern that the "repressive practices of previous military governments were returning as the norm once more" in Myanmar, describing the situation faced by civil society across the country as "increasingly perilous.”
Delivering her report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, she told the council that to date accountability for the crimes committed in Rakhine following August 25, 2017, and October 9, 2016, was elusive, adding that this must now be the focus of the international community's efforts to bring a long-lasting peace, stability and democratisation to Myanmar.
"This must be aimed at the individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups," said Lee. "The government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop, or condemn these acts must also be held accountable."
Lee called for a thorough, impartial and credible investigation to be conducted without delay and perpetrators to be held responsible for the alleged crimes that were committed in Rakhine since October 9, 2016 and August 25, 2017, and for the violations that continue today, according to a message UNB received in Dhaka from Geneva.
She called for the establishment of a UN structure, based in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, for three years to investigate, document, collect, consolidate, map, and analyse evidence of human rights violations and abuses.
The special rapporteur added the investigative body should maintain and prepare evidence in a master database to support and facilitate impartial, fair and independent international criminal proceedings in national or international courts or tribunals in accordance with international criminal law standards.
Additionally, Lee called for a comprehensive review of actions by the United Nations system in the lead-up to and after the reported attacks of October 9, 2016 and August 25, 2017 regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates and within the Human Rights Up Front framework.
"The external review should assess whether the UN and international community could have prevented or managed the situation differently that occurred regarding the Rohingya and in Rakhine, and make recommendations for accountability if appropriate," she said.
Lee also expressed concerns that with the world's attention drawn to the recent crisis in Rakhine, scant attention had been afforded to continued and escalating violence in Kachin, Shan and other conflict affected states in Myanmar.
She said against this background, the peace process appeared to be losing its momentum. "Ethnic armed organisations have complained that the reason for this is largely due to the failure of the government and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to take steps to earn the trust of stakeholders," Lee said.
The special rapporteur said she hoped to make official visits to India and China as part of her preparation to report to the General Assembly later this year, and said she remained hopeful the Myanmar government would revisit its decision and grant her access.