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UN rights expert urges accountability for Myanmar sectarian violence

UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar [official website] Tomas Ojea Quintana on Thursday welcomed [press release] recommendations by the Myanmar government's Rakhine Investigation Commission, but also voiced a strong need for the government to address impunity and ensure investigations into credible allegations of systematic human rights violations against Muslims in Rakhine state. The Rakhine Investigation Commission [BBC backgrounder] was set up last year by the country's president to look into longstanding tension and violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine State. Quintana praised recommendations to increase dialogue between the ethnic and religious communities and address living conditions in the Muslim camps for internally displaced people (IDP). Alongside praise the special rapporteur urged, "the authorities, as a matter of urgency, to ease the harsh and disproportionate restrictions on the freedom of movement of Muslim populations in the IDP camps and also in Muslim residential areas." Most pressingly Quintana expressed a need for increased accountability of government security forces in the area citing, "credible allegations that widespread and systematic human rights violations by state officials targeted against the Rohingya and wider Muslim populations have occurred and are continuing in Rakhine State." An advanced unedited copy of the special rapporteur's most recent report [text, PDF] on the situation in Myanmar is available.

Last month Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released a statement demanding that the Myanmar government investigate and hold accountable [JURIST report] those involved in the deadly violence in the Mandalay Region in March, in which an estimated 40 people were killed and 61 more were wounded. Also in April Quintana expressed serious concerns [JURIST report] in a report on growing violence between Muslim and Buddhist communities in Myanmar. The Special Rapporteur urged bold action by the Myanmar government to combat this trend, and stated that government inaction has helped fuel the spread of discrimination and prejudice against Muslim communities across the country. In March Quintana warned [JURIST report] the country of the possibility that the current reformation process may be endangered by leaving areas of importance untouched, especially related to the states of Rakhine and Kachin. He made similar calls in February when he condemned the lack of reform [JURIST report] that has been achieved in Myanmar and urged authorities and citizens to address issues of truth, justice and accountability through the creation of a truth commission to facilitate the process of national reconciliation and prevent future human rights violations.

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