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EU calls for UN fact-finding mission to Myanmar to probe rights abuses

The EU has called for the UN to send a mission to probe allegations of torture, rape and executions by the military against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. An interim report has alleged crimes against humanity.

The European Union called on the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday to send an international fact-finding mission to Myanmar to investigate the allegations of military abuses against the Rohingya minority. 

The EU draft resolution strengthened language in an earlier draft that had stopped short of demanding an international probe into alleged atrocities. The 47-member human rights forum, which is holding a four-week session, is to vote on resolutions next week. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein raised concerns about Myanmar at the Geneva meeting, urging a commission of inquiry into violence against the Rohingya.

If adopted, the Council would "dispatch urgently" a mission "with a view to ensure full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims."

A UN report last month, based on interviews with survivors in Bangladesh, said the Myanmar army and police had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi last year appointed former UN chief Kofi Annan to head a commission tasked with healing the long-simmering divisions between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state.

Karte Myanmar Rakhine State ENG

Rakhine state shares a border with Bangladesh to the north

Annan commission interim response

Earlier on Thursday, the Annan panel released an interim report calling for Myanmar to quickly begin releasing thousands of Rohingya Muslims, some of whom have been languishing in squalid camps for five years.

"It's really about time they close the camps and allow the people in the camps, particularly those who have gone through the (citizenship) verification process, access to freedom of movement and all rights of citizenship," Annan said by phone from Geneva.

Hundreds of displaced people whose return home would be feasible and safe should be moved back "immediately, as a first step and sign of goodwill," the report said.

The report also called for the government to ensure "security and livelihood opportunities at the site of return/relocation" for those leaving the camps, including by building new houses.

The Rohingya should also be given a clear path to citizenship, and restrictions on the movements of those who already have it should be lifted, the interim report added.

Bangladesch Rohingya Flüchtlinge in Kutupalong Flüchtlingslager (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/T. Chowdhury)

A Rohingya refugee mother and her children near the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh

Suu Kyi response

Suu Kyi's office issued a statement within hours of the report, saying the government "concurs with the recommendations and believes that these will have a positive impact on the process of national reconciliation and development."

Most of the recommendations would be "implemented promptly," the office said, while "a few will be contingent upon the situation on the ground."

The government must restart registration of Muslims' births in Rakhine, which all but stopped in 2012, according to the report. "It is not natural in any country of the world," said panel member Ghassan Salame, "that a newborn baby does not have a birth certificate."

The UN Security Council is to be briefed behind closed doors on Friday on the situation in Rakhine state, at the request of Britain, diplomats said in New York.

bik/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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