GENEVA – A United Nations women’s rights panel called on Myanmar on Tuesday to report within six months on rapes and sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls by its security forces in northern Rakhine state and measures taken to punish soldiers.
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also asked authorities to provide details on women and girls killed in the violence since the army crackdown began in late August.
The campaign, which followed attacks on police posts by Rohingya insurgents, has driven more than 600,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh and left their villages burned to the ground.
The rare request for an “exceptional report” from a country was only the panel’s fourth since 1982.
“We request an exceptional report from a state when a situation of grave, massive and systematic violations occur and these issues are relevant to mandate of the Committee,” panel member Nahla Haidar told Reuters.
“The exceptional report is also like a red flag,” she said. The move aimed to help Myanmar authorities “get out of the tunnel of this recent conflict which has really set back Myanmar which was going on the right foot to democratization,” she said.
The U.N. watchdog panel, composed of 23 independent experts, set a six-month deadline for the government to submit the report to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“The Committee requested information concerning cases of sexual violence, including rape, against Rohingya women and girls by State security forces; and to provide details on the number of women and girls who have been killed or have died due to other nonnatural causes during the latest outbreak of violence,” it said in a statement.
Haider said: “Essentially it’s rape, sexual violence which amounts to torture in certain cases for girls and women. And gang-raping also was documented. … And yes, torture — rapes used as a systematic weapon of war.
The experts requested information on “investigations, arrests, prosecutions, convictions and sentences or disciplinary measures imposed on perpetrators, including members of the armed forces, found guilty of such crimes.”
Specifically, they sought information on the battalions that have undertaken the “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine state since Aug. 25 “and under whose command.
They asked whether instructions have been given or are being issued to all branches of state security forces that torture, sexual violence and expulsions are banned “and that those responsible will be prosecuted and punished.”
The panel said it wanted to know how many Rohingya women and girls are being detained by security forces.
Pope Francis on Tuesday urged the leaders of majority-Buddhist Myanmar, mired in a crisis over the fate of Muslim Rohingya people, to commit themselves to justice, human rights and respect for “each ethnic group and its identity.