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UN rights forum to hold special session on Burma and Rohingya: UN sources

An overview of the UN Human Rights Council is seen in Geneva, Switzerland, on 6 June 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

GENEVA — The UN Human Rights Council is expected to hold a special session on alleged killings, rapes and other crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims in Burma that have driven more than 600,000 into Bangladesh since August, UN sources said on Monday.

“There will be a special session on December 5,” a senior United Nations source told Reuters.

Council spokesman Rolando Gomez could not confirm the date but said: “There are moves to convene a special session to address the human rights situation in the country.”

At least 16 of the 47 member states must request holding a special session of the Council, which are rare. Bangladesh and Muslim-majority countries were expected to back the call.

In March, the Council already set up a fact-finding team. The investigators reported after their first mission to Bangladesh last month that Rohingya refugees fleeing Burma had testified that a “consistent, methodical pattern of killings, torture, rape and arson is taking place.”

The latest Rohingya exodus from Rakhine State to Bangladesh’s southern tip began at the end of August, when Rohingya militants attacked security posts and the Burma Army launched a counter-offensive.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has described the army’s crackdown in Rakhine State as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. The military has denied the accusations of murder, rape, torture and forced displacement.

Amnesty International and other activist groups, in an open letter sent last week to member states, said that a special session was “imperative to launch decisive action and ensure international scrutiny and monitoring of the situation.”

Pope Francis arrived in Burma on Monday on a diplomatically delicate visit for the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to the majority-Buddhist country.