UN urged to punish Myanmar army over Rohingya ‘atrocities’

Protesters hold placards and shout slogans during a rally to protest the prosecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, in Dhaka on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2017
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UN urged to punish Myanmar army over Rohingya ‘atrocities’

YANGON: Pressure grew on Myanmar Monday as a rights group urged world leaders to impose sanctions on its military, which is accused of driving out more than 410,000 Rohingya Muslims in an orchestrated “ethnic cleansing” campaign.
The call from Human Rights Watch came as the UN General Assembly prepared to convene in New York, with the crisis in Myanmar one of the most pressing topics.
It also came on the eve of a highly-anticipated national address by Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi — her first on the Rakhine crisis.
The exodus of Rohingya refugees from mainly Buddhist Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh has sparked a humanitarian emergency. Aid groups are struggling to provide relief to a daily stream of new arrivals, more than half of whom are children.
Myanmar has suggested it will not take back all who had fled across the border, accusing those refugees of having links to the Rohingya militants whose raids on police posts in August triggered the army backlash.
Any clear moves to block the refugees’ return will likely anger Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who will press the General Assembly to raise global pressure Myanmar to take back all the Rohingya massing in shanty towns and camps near the border.
Human Rights Watch also called for the “safe and voluntary return” of the displaced as it urge governments around the globe to punish Myanmar’s army with sanctions for the “ongoing atrocities” against the Rohingya.
“The United Nations Security Council and concerned countries should impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to end its ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims,” the group said in a statement.
Myanmar’s military was hit with Western sanctions during its 50-year rule of the country. But most have been lifted in recent years as the generals have allowed a partial transition to democracy.
“Burma’s (Myanmar) senior military commanders are more likely to heed the calls of the international community if they are suffering real economic consequences,” said John Sifton, HRW’s Asia advocacy director.
Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi has shocked the international community with her near-silence on the plight of the Rohingya and her failure to condemn the actions of the army, with whom she has a delicate power-sharing arrangement.
Speaking to the BBC over the weekend, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called Suu Kyi’s upcoming address a “last chance” to stop the unfolding humanitarian calamity.
But analysts say it will be difficult for her to tamp both global outrage and combustible religious tensions at home, where there is broad support among the mainly Buddhist populace for the army’s crackdown.
“I’m worried that there is almost no possibility given the political climate in Myanmar for balancing the expectations of most of the country and the expectations of the international community,” Richard Horsey, an independent analyst based in Myanmar, told AFP.
The sharp divide was on display Monday as protests broke out in Dhaka — where 20,000 demonstrators marched in solidarity with the Rohingya — and in Yangon, where a much smaller group of 300 gathered to blast global interference in the conflict.
The ultra-nationalists in Yangon braved a downpour as they waved Myanmar flags and banners describing the UN and global NGOs as “supporting organizations for the terrorists.”
While the world has watched the refugee crisis unfold with horror, there is little sympathy for the Rohingya inside Myanmar.
Many Buddhists revile the Muslim minority and have long denied the existence of the Rohingya as an ethnic group, insisting they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Suu Kyi’s government has so far defended the military campaign as a legitimate crackdown on the Rohingya militants, who first emerged as a fighting force last October.
On Sunday Myanmar’s Information Committee accused those who fled to Bangladesh — more than a third of the Rohingya population — of working in cahoots with the Rohingya militants, a rag-tag group of fighters armed with mostly rudimentary weapons.
“Those who fled the villages made their way to the other country for fear of being arrested as they got involved in the violent attacks,” the statement said.
“Legal protection will be given to the villages whose residents did not flee,” it added.
The violence has gutted large swaths of northern Rakhine in just over three weeks, with fires visible almost daily across the border from the Bangladesh camps.
Some 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Hindus have also been displaced by unrest in northern Rakhine, where foreign aid has been severely curtailed.
On Monday, Doctors Without Borders repeated calls for “unfettered access” to the conflict zone, saying hundreds of thousands of people are thought to be languishing “without any meaningful form of humanitarian assistance.”


New sex abuse allegations levied against prominent cardinal

In this Sept. 23, 2015 file photo, Pope Francis reaches out to hug Cardinal Archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick after the Midday Prayer of the Divine with more than 300 US Bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. (AP)
Updated 29 min 17 sec ago
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New sex abuse allegations levied against prominent cardinal

  • The church announced June 20 that allegations were found to be credible
  • McCarrick served as archbishop of Washington from 2001-2006 and archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, for 15 years before that

RICHMOND, Virginia: A Virginia man said Friday he was sexually abused for about two decades by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a prominent Roman Catholic leader who was removed from public ministry last month over separate child abuse allegations.
The man, who agreed to be identified only by his first name, James, told The Associated Press he recently filed a police report detailing the abuse with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. James, who first spoke publicly with The New York Times for a story published Thursday, said the abuse began when he was a child and continued into adulthood.
McCarrick was a close family friend, James said. The 88-year-old retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., is one of the highest-ranking US church officials accused in a sexual abuse scandal that has seen thousands of priests implicated.
“I was the first guy he baptized,” James said. “I was his little boy. I was his special kid. I was the kid he always sought out.”
McCarrick, who did not immediately respond to an interview request from AP, has denied the abuse allegations that led to his removal last month by Pope Francis. The church announced June 20 that allegations were found to be “credible” that McCarrick fondled an altar boy in New York more than 40 years ago.
In a statement issued at the time of his removal, McCarrick said, “While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”
Asked Friday about James’ statements, a longtime friend of McCarrick’s who didn’t want to be identified because she doesn’t officially serve as his spokeswoman said he hadn’t received formal notice of any new allegation but would follow the civil and church processes in place to investigate them.
James said he struggled for decades with immense shame and guilt over the abuse, which he said had started by at least age 11 and extended for about two decades into his 30s. He said the abuse included McCarrick exposing himself, forcing him to sleep in the same bed and touching him inappropriately.
He said he struggled with alcoholism, which broke up his marriage, and attempted suicide multiple times. He’s been sober since he was 33, he said.
James recounted confronting McCarrick as an adult, telling him he was going to go public with his allegations.
“You can’t do that,” James says McCarrick told him. “No one’s going to believe you. You’re a drunk. You’re an idiot. ... Do you know how important I am?“
James said he included in his police report the incidents he considers most “disgusting,” which he says took place in several different states.
James’ attorney, Patrick Noaker, provided AP with a document from the sheriff’s office confirming that a police report had been taken. A spokesman for the department declined to release a full copy of the report.
Noaker said he was told the report would be passed on to the jurisdictions where James says the crimes occurred. He said he expects the statute of limitations may have run out in some states but is hopeful that prosecutors in California may be able to pursue charges. That’s because statutes of limitation run differently when someone enters a state, commits a crime and then leaves, as James alleges McCarrick did in California, Noaker said.
James said he hoped to see McCarrick prosecuted and would like a public apology. But he also said he hoped his coming forward would make other victims of sex abuse feel less alone.
“I’ve never felt this good in a long, long time,” he said.
The Associated Press does not identify people who say they’re victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission. James asked to be identified only by his first name to protect the privacy of family members.
McCarrick served as archbishop of Washington from 2001-2006 and archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, for 15 years before that. As Washington archbishop, McCarrick was a major power broker in Vatican-US relations during the final years of the pontificate of St. John Paul II and the start of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy.
His ties to Washington’s political elites proved crucial when Pope Francis tasked him with the delicate behind-the-scenes negotiations that helped lead to the 2014 US-Cuba thaw.
McCarrick was also well-known in Rome, serving on a host of Vatican congregations before he retired, including the Pontifical Council for Latin America. That post would have brought him in contact with Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, who was made a cardinal in the same 2001 consistory as McCarrick.
In 2002, he led a delegation of US churchmen to Rome, at the height of the American sex abuse scandal, and vowed to pursue a “one strike and you’re out” policy that later became the US Catholic bishops’ norms for fighting abuse.
Chieko Noguchi, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said in an emailed statement that the archdiocese takes all allegations of abuse seriously and is committed to following its long-standing child protection policy.
She declined to make further comment on James’ allegations, “as this claim did not occur in the Archdiocese of Washington.”