The United Nations on Wednesday said it has not yet determined whether the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was genocide, Reuters reported.
In September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein had called the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, but has not described the situation as a genocide. “We are looking at the legal boundaries of that,” said Jyoti Sanghera, Asia-Pacific chief at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “It could meet the boundaries, but we have not yet made that legal determination at the OHCHR.”
If the Rohingya are designated as victims of genocide under the 1948 UN convention – passed after the Nazi holocaust – it would increase pressure on the international community to take action to protect them. The convention defines genocide as acts committed with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
UN teams, which spoke with some of the 5,82,000 Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh in the past two months, said the refugees described detention and systematic rape by Myanmar’s security forces. “The testimony gathered by the team referred to unspeakable horrors,” Sanghera told an audience at Geneva’s Graduate Institute.
The refugees said Myanmar security forces deliberately destroyed Rohingya villages so people could not return and targeted cultural and religious leaders to “diminish Rohingya history”, Sanghera said. Imams had their beards shaved or burnt off, and women and girls were raped inside mosques.
According to the UN, a few hundred thousand Rohingya still remain in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.