UN rights chief urges new panel for Myanmar prosecutions

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GENEVA, Sept 10, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The UN rights chief called Monday for
the creation of a new “mechanism” tasked with preparing criminal indictments
over atrocities committed in Myanmar, amid allegations of genocide against
the Rohingya minority.

In her first speech as head of the UN rights office, Michelle Bachelet
called on the UN Human Rights Council to create “an independent international
mechanism for Myanmar, to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence
of the most serious international crimes, in order to expedite fair and
independent trials in national and international courts.”

“I urge the Council to pass a resolution, and refer the matter to the
General Assembly for its endorsement, so that such a mechanism can be
established,” she said.

Such a panel has already been created for the Syrian conflict.

A UN Fact-finding Mission last month issued a damning report concluding
there was enough evidence to prosecute Myanmar’s army chief and five other
top military commanders for crimes against humanity and genocide against the
Rohingya.

Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh
after Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents in August last year
amid accounts of arson, murder and rape by soldiers and vigilante mobs in the
mainly Buddhist country.

Myanmar has vehemently denied allegations of ethnic cleansing, insisting it
was responding to attacks by Rohingya rebels.

The fact-finding mission is asking the UN rights council, which opened
Monday and will be in session through September 28, to renew its mandate for
another year.

If created, the new mechanism focused on preparing cases for prosecution
would comprise a separate group of experts.

Bachelet, a former Chilean president, stressed Monday that the panel would
also “complement and support the preliminary examination of the ICC
Prosecutor.”

The International Criminal Court announced last week that it had
jurisdiction to probe the crisis because of the cross-border nature of the
alleged “deportations” of the Rohingya to Bangladesh — a decision Myanmar’s
government has “resolutely” rejected.

Bachelet welcomed the ICC decision, describing it as “an immensely
important step towards ending impunity and addressing the enormous suffering
of the Rohingya people.

“I emphasise the imperative of justice for Myanmar,” she said.

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