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UN envoy calls for highest level probe in Burma

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, centre, arrives for a press conference in Rangoon on 20 January 2017, at the conclusion of a 12-day visit to the country. (Photo: AFP)

The United Nations rapporteur on human rights in Burma called Thursday for the creation of a Commission of Inquiry (COI), the UN’s highest-level probe, to investigate abuses in the country.

Rights envoy Yanghee Lee made the appeal in a report submitted to the UN rights council, currently holding its main annual session in Geneva.

She urged the 47-member body to establish a COI “to investigate the systematic, structural, and institutional discrimination in policy, law and practice, as well long-standing persecution, against the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine [Arakan] State.”

She said the probe should focus on violence in 2012, 2014 and the army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northern Arakan State since October, which came in retaliation for attacks by militants on police border posts.

The UN expert said the episodes in question “may amount to crimes against humanity.”

A UN rights office investigation accused Burma’s security forces of murder, rape and torture in the Arakan operation since October.

Burma has dismissed mounting international pressure over alleged abuses of Rohingya Muslims as “biased and unfair.”

Escapees have given the UN chilling accounts of babies being stabbed to death, people being burned alive and widespread gang rape during those operations.

Setting up a COI must be done through a resolution approved by council members, which could be adopted before the session ends later this month.