United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein on Tuesday said elements of genocide in violence against Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s security forces cannot be ruled out, Reuters reported. Hussein said none of the Rohingya who had fled Rakhine state since August should be repatriated to Myanmar unless there was a strong human rights monitoring mechanism on the ground.

He was speaking at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva called by Bangladesh. “Considering Rohingyas’ self-identify as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture – and [that they] are also deemed by the perpetrators themselves as belonging to a different ethnic, national, racial or religious group – given all of this, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” Hussein said, according to BBC.

The UN human rights chief said the campaign against Rohingya was a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. Hussein said the Council should recommend the establishment of a new mechanism to “assist individual criminal investigations of those responsible”.

Htin Lynn, Myanmar’s ambassador to the rights council, denied allegations of atrocities and said Myanmar, along with Bangladesh, was working to ensure the return of displaced people. “People will say what they wanted to believe and sometimes they will say what they were told to say,” he said.

Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar and are classified as illegal immigrants. The community has been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar, though the country has repeatedly denied this claim. The crisis has threatened to jeopardise Myanmar’s US-aided shift toward democracy after five decades of military rule. More than six lakh Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since violence broke out in Rakhine state in August.