UNITED NATIONS – A key U.N. committee overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday strongly condemning the continuing “gross human rights violations and abuses” against Rohingya Muslims who are treated as outsiders in Myanmar and were victims of a brutal campaign by the country’s military.
The General Assembly’s human rights committee approved the resolution by a vote of 142-10, with 26 abstentions. It is virtually certain to be formally adopted by the 193-member world body in December.
Among those voting against the resolution were Myanmar neighbors China, Cambodia and Laos along with Russia. Bangladesh, which hosts 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, voted in favor.
The resolution expresses deep concern that violence by Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya has forced over 723,000 people to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017.
It urgently calls on Myanmar’s government to end discrimination and provide a path to citizenship for the embattled minority.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
The latest crisis began with attacks by an underground Rohingya insurgent group on Myanmar security personnel in August 2017 in northern Rakhine State. Myanmar’s military responded with a brutal campaign and is accused of mass rape, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.
The resolution, sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Union and Canada, reiterates “deep distress” at reports that unarmed Rohingya are still being subjected to excessive use of force and rights violations by Myanmar’s military and security forces, including killings and rapes.
The resolution expresses “grave concern” at the findings of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, which concluded that some top Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya.
It strongly condemns all rights abuses set out in the commission’s report and calls for “a full and independent investigation” of human rights abuses against the Rohingya and other minorities.
Turkish Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu, speaking on behalf of the OIC, called the commission’s findings “devastating.”
He said “people have been trapped in a vicious cycle of violence and forced displacement” for years in Myanmar and the events of August 2017 against the Rohingya are “only the latest episode of this cycle.”
“Without a comprehensive strategy, reaching an enduring solution to this crisis is impossible,” Sinirlioglu said.
He said the OIC believes the only solution is the voluntary return of the Rohingya to their homes with their basic rights “guaranteed” — but he said this will not be possible “without holding the perpetrators responsible for their crimes.”
Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador, Hau Do Suan, called the resolution “politically motivated and one-sided and discriminatory.” He accused the global media and human rights champions of concentrating on Myanmar and Rakhine state — where the remaining Rohingya live — when money could be better spend helping starving people in Yemen and elsewhere.
“Adoption of this and other ill-intentioned, selective and politically motivated resolutions will not help at all our efforts to solving the issue of Rakhine state, but would rather lead to further polarization and escalation of tensions among different religious communities in the country,” Hau said. “It will only aggravate distrust between the people of Myanmar and the international community.”