Sunday, March 18, 2018 08:19:42 AM
The UN Secretary-General's special representative on sexual violence in conflict has said that the Myanmar armed forces must be held to account for the alleged sexual violence against civilians in Rakhine State.
"A clear picture is emerging of the alleged perpetrators of these atrocities and their modus operandi," Pramila Patten said at a press briefing in Dhaka on Sunday after her visit to Cox's Bazar where she heard "horrible" stories of sexual violence.
"Sexual violence is being commanded, orchestrated and perpetrated by the Armed Forces of Myanmar, otherwise known as the Tatmadaw," she said, in a written statement.
"Other actors involved include the Myanmar border guard police and militias composed of Rakhine Buddists and other ethnic groups," she said.
"Any actor that commits, commands and condones sexual violence against civilians must be held to account."
Asked who will hold them to account, she said there is a possible option that UN Security Council, which is divided on Rohingya issue because of China's backing to Myanmar, adopt a resolution instructing the International Criminal Court or ICC to open an investigation.
Patten, a lawyer by profession, said the Security Council can also establish the same mechanism which was done for Syria for the crimes committed by Islamic State to investigate crimes for eventual prosecution. She, however, said her visit was not a fact-finding mission.
According to her, she came to Bangladesh to understand the trends and patterns of sexual violence to brief the Secretary General and also prepare a report on the issue.
Myanmar has denied her access despite request.
Over half a million Rohingyas have fled 'ethnic cleansing' since Aug 25 from the Rakhine State.
Patten said the forms of sexual violence she heard from the survivors include gang-rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation, and sexual slavery in military captivity. One survivor descried being held in captivity by the Myanmar Armed Forces for 45 days, during which time she was repeatedly raped. Others still bore visible scars, bruises, and bite marks, attesting to their ordeal.
She said several sources informed them that some women and girls have been "literally raped to death".
"These brutal acts of sexual violence occurred in the context of collective persecution, the burning and looting of villages, torture, mutilation, and the slaughtering of civilians - even babies, who represent the next generation and the future of this community," she said.
Some expressed a desire to return home, provided they would be granted citizenship and equal status while others said they have nothing left to return to but ashes. All of them without exception demanded justice.
Patten thanked Bangladesh for giving them shelter and said survivors told them that "In Myanmar, we felt like we were in the home of our in-laws, but here we feel as if we are in our parents home". "This speaks volumes about the warm welcome they have received". She said the authorities in Bangladesh can rest assured that "their efforts and their humanity will be remembered in history". "For our part, my office stands ready to amplify the voices of the survivors and to bridge them to the international community, in order to keep a spotlight on this crisis," she said, adding that this includes keeping the spotlight of international scrutiny on the perpetrators.
"I want the survivors to know that they are not alone and I also want to ensure the government of Bangladesh will not be alone in coming to their aid".
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