The vast majority of Rohingyas will be prevented from participating in the upcoming elections and to stand for office, says UN human rights chief
Myanmar has failed to take necessary measures to resolve the Rohingya crisis, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Monday.
Speaking at the opening of the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, she laid emphasis on enhanced interactive dialogue on the implementation of recommendations from the Fact-Finding Mission on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
With elections approaching in early November, this is a key moment for the assessment of Myanmar's progress on human rights, including areas where action should be taken by the next government, said the high commissioner.
The vast majority of Rohingyas will not be able to participate in the elections, she lamented.
"Three years have passed since the military operations in Rakhine created a terrible human rights crisis. The situation of many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees and internally displaced people remains unresolved," said Bachelet.
In 2019, the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar concluded that Myanmar incurred state responsibility under the prohibition against genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as for other violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, she reminded.
"This council and the general assembly also emphasized the call for accountability. But regrettably, no concrete measures have been taken," said the UN human rights chief.
National initiatives, including secretive and selective court-martial and the National Commission of Enquiry, have been inadequate and fallen short of international standards, she noted.
"I continue to encourage the Myanmar government to cooperate fully with international judicial and investigative bodies to ensure that justice is delivered and to support the transitional justice processes, which are vital to sustainable peace, she added.
Currently, people from the Rakhine, Chin, Mro, Daignet, and Rohingya communities are increasingly affected by the armed conflict in Rakhine and Chin States, that includes disappearances and extra-judicial killings of civilians, massive civilian displacement, arbitrary arrests, torture and deaths in custody, and the destruction of civilian property, said Bachelet.
"Civilian casualties have also been increasing. In some cases, they appear to have been targeted or attacked indiscriminately, which may constitute further war crimes or even crimes against humanity," she said.
The high commissioner said: "It is troubling that a number of satellite images and eyewitness accounts indicate that areas in northern Rakhine have been burnt in recent months."
"I note that the government has contested this, based on its own review of satellite data. This only underscores the need for an independent, on-the-ground investigation," she said.
"Government administrators are reclassifying areas where Rohingya villages were previously located, removing the names of villages from official maps and potentially altering how the land may be used," Bachelet added.
"This should end immediately, and the prior situation should be restored. Such acts once again victimize those who have been forced to flee, and could prevent Rohingyas from returning to their homes, reclaiming their rights, and rebuilding their lives," she said.
"I am also concerned that they risk destroying evidence relevant to determining legal responsibility for acts committed during military operations both before and after 2017," she added.
The high commissioner said: "The November elections are an important opportunity for all the parties to demonstrate their commitment to democratic norms.
“The current situation is disappointing."
"The vast majority of Rohingyas will be prevented from participating in the elections, since they have effectively been stripped of their previously recognized rights to vote and stand for office," she added.
Instances of hate speech, including Islamophobic messages, are rampant, she further observed.
Myanmar has repeatedly stated that it wishes to resolve the Rohingya crisis and ensure that the Rohingyas can return to their places of origin with dignity and safety, said Bachelet.
"Action must now be taken to properly remedy the serious violations the Rohingya have suffered, and include them into the life of their country.
“Given Myanmar's stated commitment to democracy, I also encourage the government to remove the barriers that impede democratic freedoms and undermine the equal enjoyment of human rights by all in Myanmar," she added.