Myanmar army chief must be prosecuted for Rohingya ‘genocide’: UN rights envoy

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Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village September 2, 2017. (REUTERS)
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Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village September 1, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 January 2019

Myanmar army chief must be prosecuted for Rohingya ‘genocide’: UN rights envoy

  • Lee has been blocked from visiting Myanmar since 2017 over her vocal criticism of its treatment of the Rohingya

BANGKOK: Myanmar’s army chief should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, a UN human rights investigator said, adding that holding perpetrators to account for crimes was necessary before refugees who fled the country could return.
Yanghee Lee, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, was speaking during a trip to Thailand and Bangladesh, where she met officials and Rohingya driven out of western Rakhine state after an army crackdown in 2017.
“Min Aung Hlaing and others should be held accountable for genocide in Rakhine and for crimes against humanity and war crimes in other parts of Myanmar,” said Lee, who is barred from the country, referring to the military’s commander-in-chief.
Her interview marked the first time Lee has publicly called for the army chief to be prosecuted for genocide. A UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar last year said that the military campaign, which refugees say included mass killings and rape, was orchestrated with “genocidal intent” and recommended charging Min Aung Hlaing and five other generals with the “gravest crimes under international law.”
Since August 2017 some 730,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh, where they now live overcrowded camps.
“For any repatriation to happen ... the perpetrators must be held to account, because sending the refugees back with no accountability is going to really exacerbate or prolong the horrific situation in Myanmar,” Lee told Reuters in an interview in Thailand on Jan. 18. “And then we’ll see another cycle of expulsion again.”
Spokesmen for Myanmar’s military and government could not be reached for comment. The country has previously denied almost all allegations made by refugees against its troops, who it says were engaged in legitimate counterterrorism operations.

Legal routes
The UN Security Council in September voted to approve the establishment of an “ongoing independent mechanism” for Myanmar that would collect, consolidate, and preserve evidence of crimes that could be used in an eventual court case.
Lee said the independent mechanism would provide funds for “victim support,” including money for criminal cases.
Myanmar has said it “absolutely rejects” that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction to rule on its actions. The country is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the Hague-based court.
Non-parties can be referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council, though diplomats have said permanent members China and Russia would likely veto any such move. Britain has been drafting a Security Council resolution on Myanmar, but diplomats told Reuters in December it did not include a referral to the ICC.
Legal experts say other options for an international prosecution include referral by individual UN member states – five Latin American states recently successfully referred Venezuela – or an ad hoc tribunal.

’Dark ages’
Lee has been blocked from visiting Myanmar since 2017 over her vocal criticism of its treatment of the Rohingya.
She said Myanmar authorities had turned down her latest request to visit the country.
“They responded and reminded me that they had asked the Human Rights Council to replace me so they cannot engage with me,” she said.
The human rights record of the civilian government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been a “great disappointment,” she said.
Since Suu Kyi swept to power in a landslide election in 2015, 44 journalists have been arrested, according to Athan, a Yangon-based free speech group. That number includes two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, sentenced to seven years after reporting on a military-led massacre of 10 Rohingya.
“It really is alarming that Myanmar is taking this path,” said Lee. “After 60, 70 years of isolation now is a big chance for them to come out and now they’re retreating back into the dark ages, which is very disappointing.”


Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

Updated 5 min 44 sec ago

Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

  • Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump says ‘I kept my promises’
  • The president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough

HOLLYWOOD, Florida: President Donald Trump said Saturday that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, “I kept my promises.”
Trump energized an audience that numbered in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including an extensive riff on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Trump said his predecessors only paid lip service to the issue.
“They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion,” Trump said. “But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises.”
Trump also highlighted his decision to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory had not been recognized by the international community.
In his speech, the president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough.
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Trump’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” Keyak said.
Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A number of Jewish groups noted at the time that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting that Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office.”
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for the 2018 congressional elections.
Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump criticized Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon
But Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Trump said he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.