Sun, Apr 15, 2018 - Page 5 News List

UN blacklists Burmese army for rape

HUMILIATE AND TERRORIZE:Burmese soldiers attacked women, including pregnant women, who are seen as propagators of ethnic identity, and children, the UN chief said


A Rohingya refugee stands next to a pond in the early morning at the Balukhali refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Dec. 26 last year.

Photo: Reuters

A new UN report for the first time put the Burmese armed forces on a blacklist of government and rebel groups “credibly suspected” of carrying out rapes and other acts of sexual violence in conflict.

A copy of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ report to the UN Security Council, obtained on Friday by reporters, says international medical staff and others in Bangladesh have documented that many of the almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled from Myanmar “bear the physical and psychological scars of brutal sexual assault.”

The assaults were allegedly perpetrated by the Burmese armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, “at times acting in concert with local militias, in the course of military ‘clearance’ operations in October 2016 and August 2017,” Guterres said.

“The widespread threat and use of sexual violence was integral to this strategy, serving to humiliate, terrorize and collectively punish the Rohingya community, as a calculated tool to force them to flee their homelands and prevent their return,” he said.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, insisting they are Bengali migrants from Bangladesh living illegally in the country.

It has denied them citizenship, leaving them stateless.

The recent spasm of violence began when Rohingya insurgents launched a series of attacks on Aug. 25 last year on about 30 security outposts and other targets.

Burmese security forces then began a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages that the UN and human rights groups have called a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

“Violence was visited upon women, including pregnant women, who are seen as custodians and propagators of ethnic identity, as well as on young children, who represent the future of the group,” Guterres said. “This can be linked to an inflammatory narrative alleging that high fertility rates among the Rohingya represent an existential threat to the majority population.”

The report, which is to be a focus of a UN Security Council meeting tomorrow on preventing sexual violence in conflict, put 51 government, rebel and extremist groups on the list.

They include 17 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including the armed forces and national police, seven from Syria, including the armed forces and intelligence services, six each from the Central African Republic and South Sudan, five from Mali, four from Somalia, three from Sudan, one each from Iraq and Myanmar, and Boko Haram, which operates in several countries.

“As a general trend, the rise or resurgence of conflict and violent extremism, with its ensuing proliferation of arms, mass displacement and collapsed rule of law, triggers patterns of sexual violence,” Guterres said.

This was evident in many places last year as insecurity spread to new regions in the Central African Republic, violence surged in eastern and central DRC, conflict engulfed South Sudan, violence wracked Syria and Yemen, and “‘ethnic cleansing’ in the guise of clearance operations unfolded in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar,” he said.

Guterres said most victims are “politically and economically marginalized women and girls” concentrated in remote, rural areas with the least access to services that can help them, and in refugee camps and areas for the displaced.

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