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US urges Myanmar to ‘investigate the human rights abuses’ of Rohingya population

In a meeting in New York with a top aide to Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Pompeo also urged the government to immediately release two Reuters journalists who were jailed

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 3:42am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 4:30am

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has renewed US calls for Myanmar to bring to justice those responsible for human rights abuses against the minority Rohingya Muslim population.

In a meeting in New York on Thursday with a top aide to Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Pompeo also urged the government to immediately release two Reuters journalists who were jailed for reporting on violence in the country’s northern Rakhine State, according to the State Department.

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The meeting between Pompeo and Kyaw Tint Swe was on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. This week the UN’s top human rights body agreed to set up a team to collect evidence of crimes against the Rohingya and others since 2011 that could be used to prosecute perpetrators.

Also released this week was a US report that found Myanmar’s military targeted Rohingya civilians indiscriminately in a coordinated effort to drive them out of the country, which is also known as Burma.

“While underscoring US support for the democratic transition in Burma and efforts to achieve national peace and reconciliation, the Secretary urged the Government of Burma to take concrete steps to investigate the human rights abuses chronicled by the US Documentation Report and UN Fact Finding Mission and to hold accountable members of the security forces and others responsible for these acts,” the department said in a statement.

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“The secretary also called for the Burmese government to immediately release jailed Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and to strengthen and protect freedom of expression,” it said.

The US report, released by the State Department on Monday, said Myanmar’s military had often acted with “extreme brutality” against the Rohingya, although it did not say whether the abuses constitute genocide and crimes against humanity, as UN investigators have surmised.

Myanmar, a majority Buddhist nation which is now formally under civilian rule, has denied abuses by its military.

But the US report, coming on the heels of an extensive UN fact-finding mission that recommended military leaders be prosecuted for genocide, will make it increasingly difficult for the government to rebut international criticism.

The report found that in the two months following August 2017 – when attacks by Rohingya militants on security forces triggered retaliation – satellite imagery show that more than 38,000 buildings were destroyed by fire in Rakhine State.

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In many areas, refugees said security forces used flamethrowers or incendiary devices to burn down houses and to kill and injure Rohingya. Sexual violence is also reported as having been widespread.

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Also on Friday, prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney appealed to Aung San Suu Kyi over a pardon for the two Reuters journalists, saying the Nobel laureate held the key to their release.

Clooney said the journalists’ families had already submitted a request for their pardon, adding that the president can grant a pardon following consultation with Suu Kyi.

“The government can, if it wants to, end it today,” the British-Lebanese lawyer told an event dedicated to press freedom on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

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“She holds the key, the key to their liberty, the key to reuniting them with their young children, the key to freedom of the press.

“The key to truth and accountability, and the key to a more democratic and prosperous Myanmar,” Clooney said. “History will judge her on her response.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse