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UN rights chief: cannot rule out genocide in Myanmar

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein [official website] said [press release] Tuesday that he could not rule out that genocide is occurring in Myanmar against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

During statements to a special session of the UN Human Rights Council [official website], the High Commissioner stated that whether elements of genocide are present "is a legal determination only a competent court can make ... but the concerns are extremely serious, and clearly call for access to be immediately granted for further verification." Zeid said that witnesses have reported acts of "deliberately burning people to death inside their homes; murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls; and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques" against the Rohingya people.

The High Commissioner recommended that the UN General Assembly establish an impartial and independent mechanism to aid in criminal investigations against the individuals involved. He also cautioned against returning the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar without human rights monitoring on the ground and addressing the crisis's root causes.

The current statements come after several groups have previously condemned the human rights violations in Myanmar, including the UN Security Council, Amnesty International, and Myanmar State Counselor and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi [JURIST reports]. The High Commissioner previously referred [JURIST report] to the crisis as an "ethnic cleansing" in September.

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