The United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar called on the government on Wednesday to "dismantle the system of discrimination" against the Muslim Rohingya minority and to restore their rights to citizenship and property.
Yanghee Lee, addressing the UN Human Rights Council, said conditions were not ripe for 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to go home and regretted that a memo of understanding on repatriation agreed this month between Myanmar and two UN aid agencies had not been made public.
Lee denounced human rights violations by Myanmar and said her top priority is "constructive engagement" with Myanmar's government, which has said it will no longer cooperate with her efforts to document rights abuses.
Myint Thu, Myanmar foreign affairs permanent secretary, retorted to Lee's report to the council Wednesday by accusing her of "lack of objectivity" and calling for her to be replaced.
Lee has said violent sweeps by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state that prompted about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh "bear the hallmarks of genocide."
Call for prosecution
Meanwhile, Amnesty International released a report Wednesday that details new evidence of atrocities inflicted on Myanmar’s Rohingya population and names 13 top military commanders the human rights group says should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
The report is titled “We Will Destroy Everything.” Amnesty said those words, spoken by a military commander in a recording of a telephone call obtained by the group’s investigators, sum up the mindset of Myanmar soldiers in dealing with the Muslim Rohingya.
About 700,000 Rohingya have fled into neighboring Bangladesh since last August to escape what United Nations has called an “ethnic cleansing” campaign by Myanmar’s government.
Amnesty said its investigative team spent nine months gathering evidence of the brutal treatment of Rohingya in a crackdown that began in August in the country’s western Rakhine state.
The report said the Amnesty team interviewed hundreds of victims and collected harrowing new evidence of the murderous methods used to drive the Rohingya out of Myanmar. Photographs and video clips, as well as expert forensic and weapons analysis, were used to bolster information.
Amnesty said its evidence implicates Myanmar’s military commander in chief, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, and 12 others in the commission of nine out of 11 types of crimes against humanity listed in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It says those 12 — nine of the general’s subordinates and three border guard police officers — are “those with blood on their hands.” It urged that they be put on trial by the international court.
Soldiers used systematic rape of women and girls as a war weapon in at least 16 villages, according to Amnesty, which interviewed 11 who were gang-raped. The group said satellite images it obtained show fires set to consume entire villages, with people burning inside their homes.
The report said massacres took the lives of thousands who were bound and executed or fatally shot while fleeing. The military especially targeted the elderly and children, it said.
Reuters and AP contributed to this story.