GENEVA (Reuters) - Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar have testified that a “consistent, methodical pattern” of killings, torture, rape and arson is taking place, United Nations human rights investigators said on Friday after a first mission to Bangladesh.
The fact-finding team, led by former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman, said the death toll from the Myanmar army’s crackdown following Rohingya insurgent attacks on Aug. 25 was unknown, but “may turn out to be extremely high”.
“We have heard many accounts from people from many different villages across northern Rakhine state. They point to a consistent, methodical pattern of actions resulting in gross human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of people,” Darusman said in a statement.
The team of three independent experts spent six days interviewing some of the 600,000 Rohingya from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state who are in refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar. An advance team of U.N. rights officers have been conducting comprehensive interviews for weeks, it said.
“We are deeply disturbed at the end of this visit,” Darusman said.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, another member and veteran U.N. human rights investigator, said she was left “shaken and angry” by the testimonies.
“The accounts of sexual violence that I heard from victims are some of the most horrendous I have heard in my long experience in dealing with this issue in many crisis situations,” she said. “One could see the trauma in the eyes of the women I interviewed. When proven, this kind of abuse must never be allowed to go unpunished.”
The U.N. team, which was established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March, renewed its appeal for access to Rakhine state and for talks with the Myanmar government and military to “establish the facts”.
The third member, Christopher Sidoti, said that Rohingyas must be allowed to return to Rakhine if they wish, but only after mechanisms are put in place to ensure their safety.
“That may require the placement of international human rights monitors in Rakhine State,” he said.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Tom Miles, Larry King