A top United Nations envoy on Saturday voiced grave concern over alleged abuses by Myanmar security forces after sectarian violence in Rakhine State and urged a full and credible state investigation.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special human rights rapporteur, called on the government to find out the truth about violence in June between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Muslim Rohingyas and address reports of extrajudicial killings and torture by its police and soldiers.
“I am concerned … at the allegations I have received of serioushuman rights violations committed as part of measures to restore law and order,” Quintana said in a statement at the end of a six-day visit to Myanmar, his sixth to the country.
“While I am in no position to be able to verify these allegations at this point in time, they are of grave concern. It is therefore of fundamental importance to clearly establish what has happened in Rakhine State and to ensure accountability.”
The conflict has exposed deep-rooted communal animosity and put the spotlight on promises by the government in office since 2011 to protect human rights after decades of brutal army rule.
In a report this week citing witnesses and interviews with 57 people in Rakhine State, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said there was evidence of “state-sponsored persecution and discrimination” against the Rohingyas, which number at least 800,000 in Myanmar.
The report said security forces had carried out extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and torture and had done nothing to intervene to stop the lynching of 10 Muslims by a Buddhist mob, which preceded a week of riots, arson and knife attacks that killed 77 people and displaced tens of thousands.
The government has rejected the allegations and said its forces exercised “maximum restraint”. A minister on Monday confirmed that 858 people have been detained.
Quintana also called for a review of 1982 laws that he said discriminated against Rohingyas and denied them citizenship and freedom of movement, to ensure they were in line with international human rights standards. The government insists they are illegal immigrants.
Quintana also addressed allegations of attacks on civilians, sexual violence, torture and recruitment of child soldiers in northern Kachin state, where violence between troops and Kachin rebels resisting calls for dialogue have displaced at least 50,000 people.
“The government and all armed groups must do more to ensure the protection of civilians during armed conflict,” he added.