UN rights expert urges Myanmar to tackle religious violence
UN rights expert urges Myanmar to tackle religious violence
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[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar [official website], Tomas Ojea Quintana, expressed serious concerns in a report [text, PDF] on Thursday over 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 [OHCHR press release] has helped fuel the spread of discrimination and prejudice against Muslim communities across the country. In the past six months, 26 people have been killed and thousands newly displaced as a result of the escalating religious conflicts. In response [text, PDF] to the report, the Myanmar government stated allegations of human rights violations against civilians of ethnic minorities are unfounded. However, Quintana urges:

The Government must take immediate action to stop the violence from spreading to other parts of the country and undermining the reform process. This includes stemming campaigns of discrimination and hate speech which are fuelling racist and, in particular, anti-Muslim feeling in the country. And it involves holding to account those responsible for acts of violence and destruction against religious and ethnic minorities. … Tackling discrimination is fundamental to establishing the rule of law, and impunity for acts of violence and discrimination must no longer be tolerated. The military and police must now be held to account for human rights violations committed against ethnic and religious minorities.

He also emphasized that civil society and political parties play a strong role in confronting prejudice and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities.

Myanmar’s human rights record has been of noticeable concern recently. Earlier this month, 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 last month when he commended 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. In October Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called for an end to the sectarian violence in Myanmar [JURIST report] between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, calling on the government to do more to end the violence and protect the rights of the Rohingya, whose civil rights were effectively taken away with their citizenship in 1982. In August Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) [advocacy website] reported that Myanmar’s army is still committing human rights abuses [JURIST report] against ethnic minorities in Karen state. Earlier in August HRW accused [JURIST report] Myanmar security forces of human rights abuses against a minority religious community.