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Horrors off camera?

HRW terms Myanmar Commission report methodologically flawed: UN team to visit Rohingya camps

HRW terms Myanmar Commission report methodologically flawed: UN team to visit Rohingya camps
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By Special Correspondent
06th-Jan-2017       
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Different rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have sharply criticized Myanmar government after its foreign ministry refuted the allegations of torture and repression on Rohingyas in the Muslim dominated Rakhine state.
 "Yet when it comes to allegations of other serious abuses, the government [of Myanmar] remains curiously intransigent. The claim by the Myanmar foreign ministry, which is headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, that this was an isolated case rings hollow," Deputy Director of HRW [Asia Division] Phil Robertson said.
 "The leaked video, filmed by a police officer, has prompted the government to admit that in this case police officers had abused villagers during 'clearance operations…But the video begs the question: if police officers unashamedly film themselves savagely beating Rohingya villagers, what horrors are taking place off camera?" Phil Robertson also said posing a question. Recently a video went viral on social media showed Myanmar police officers brutally kicking and beating ethnic Rohingya villagers, including some who appeared to be children, ignited widespread criticism in the international arena.
Against this backdrop, the Myanmar government had said "legal action to be taken" against six officers whom were involved, and at the same time appointed a commission to investigate the violence that occurred in October last year.
But strangely the commission, revealed its report on Tuesday, has found no cases of genocide or religious persecution of Rohingya Muslims. Echoing the same, the spokesman of Myanmar's foreign ministry also claimed it "an isolated case."
According to information available, the 13-member commission was constituted by presidential order on December 1 to probe the October 9 border guard attacks in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships as well as subsequent violence in Muslim villages in Maungdaw on November 12 and 13. The commission released its report on Tuesday.
Condemning the Myanmar Commission's report, Phil Robertson further said: "Two separate government investigations have either dismissed the allegations against the military entirely or failed to address them, claiming there is insufficient evidence. Instead, the government claims without evidence that the Rohingya militants were responsible for the widespread burnings."  "Since the violence erupted, the government has prevented both humanitarian groups from providing much-needed assistance, and human rights researchers and journalists from independently conducting on-the-ground investigations," he said.
It is learnt that, the HRW has used satellite imagery to identify at least 1,500 buildings that were destroyed in Maungdaw Township between October and November last year. The pattern of destruction strongly suggests that the buildings were destroyed in arson attacks that were part of a military operation. Witnesses to the destruction also say the military was responsible. The commission report said: "The Bengali population residing in Maungdaw region, the increasing population of Mawlawi [Muslim religious scholars], mosques, and religious edifices are proof that there were no cases of genocide and religious persecution in the region."
The report used a derogatory name for the stateless Rohingya also blaming that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. It conducted investigations of allegations of rape, torture, arson and illegal arrests in Rohingya villages interviewing local villagers and women, but found insufficient evidence to take legal action.
The Myanmar commission report also said the armed attacks were carried out by members of the Islamic terrorist organization Aqa Mul Mujahidin that operated in Maungdaw region in conjunction with the local extremist group Rohingya Solidarity Organization [RSO].
Interestingly, in its conclusion to the report, the commission said: "The commission is carrying out its duties, being ever mindful that, as per the nature of these conflicts, illegal activities and fabricated rumors and news can appear occasionally." Meanwhile, the foreign Ministry officials said the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is likely to send a team to Bangladesh this month to see the Rohingyas' condition who have entered southeastern district of Cox's Bazar being driven away by Myanmar army. The team will prepare an evaluation report on the migrant situation. On the other hand, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting with foreign ministers over Rohingya issue on January 19. The 57-member body, since its birth, will sit in a meeting for the first time over the Rohingya Muslims issue.   "The OIC will hold an emergency meeting at the level of foreign ministers on January 19 in Malaysia to discuss the dangerous violations committed against the Rohingya Muslims and to make a decision to bring an end to this humanitarian crisis," Maha Akeel, spokeswoman for the OIC, told Arab News recently.
In the meantime, Myanmar rights activists reacted to a written appeal by a group of 23 Nobel Laureates politicians and global leaders to the United Nations Security Council on December 28 to end "ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity" in Rakhine state, according to the media reports.
Member of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group Mie Mie has suggested that outside forces should not press Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's de facto leader and herself a Nobel laureate, to resolve the issue.
 "Because Aung San Suu Kyi is also a Nobel laureate, she doesn't need to be pressured to stop human rights violations or to be sent an open letter. This country's problems are those of the citizens and the government. We will work together to resolve them," she told RFA's Myanmar Service.
She also pointed to the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi's special Rakhine Advisory Commission, headed by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, to help resolve the religious and ethnic divisions in Rakhine state, according to media.

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