Human Rights Groups Call for Independent International Investigation of Abuses in Rakhine State

A coalition of more than 40 human rights and civil society organisations have called for an international investigation into the situation in Rakhine State – where reports of violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority continue to emerge.

Fortify Rights, a South East Asia based human rights organisation, said that the evidence pointed towards State-sponsored attacks of the Rohingya and that, therefore, international investiagtion was needed.

“This initiative is important for the entire country,” Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights, said. “It’s time for the government to get on board and support the establishment of an impartial and independent inquiry.”

The statement called specifically for: “[A] commission of inquiry to fully assess the totality of the situation in Rakhine State and provide clear recommendations for the current government to effectively address and prevent further problems.”

The statement was made the day before the Foreign Ministers of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – representing 57 member states – met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to discuss the plight of the Rohingya.

Clashes in Rakhine State have escalated after militants attacked three police stations late last year – nine police were killed in the attacks.

Following the attacks, the Burmese Government has established a commission of inquiry led by the country’s Vice President, ex-general Myint Swe. Fortify Rights has said that since this commission was established, tens of thousands of civilians have fled attacks by the Burmese military in Maungdaw Township.

Fortify Rights said it had documented instances of the Burmese military razing villages in the area, the killing of civilians and the rape of Rohingya women – and that cases of such attacks went as far back as October 2016.

“In three months we’ve seen the formation of an advisory commission, a whitewash commission, and a discriminatory commission,” Smith said. “None of these bodies are conducting a serious, impartial investigation into ongoing human rights violations. The international community needs to wake up to the fact that domestic remedies have been exhausted and the situation of the Rohingya is worsening by the day.”

Verifying reports has been difficult with the Burmese military blocking access to journalists and NGO’s.

“If there were ever a situation in which an independent investigation is needed, it’s now in Rakhine State,” said Matthew Smith. “The international community has an opportunity to take up the call of Myanmar civil society, and it should act without delay,” Smith added.

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