September 27, 2018 / 2:38 PM / 24 days ago

U.N. sets up body to prepare Myanmar atrocity prosecution files

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to set up a body to prepare evidence of human rights abuses in Myanmar, including possible genocide, for any future prosecution.

FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees, who crossed the border from Myanmar two days before, walk after they received permission from the Bangladeshi army to continue on to the refugee camps, in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

The 47-member Council voted by 35 votes to three, with seven abstentions, in favour of a resolution brought by the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

China, the Philippines and Burundi voted against the move, whose backers said it was supported by more than 100 countries.

Myanmar Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said the resolution was based on the report of a U.N. fact-finding mission (FFM) that his government had categorically rejected, and which was unbalanced, one-sided and encouraged disunity of the country.

“The draft resolution is based on serious but unverified accusations and recommendations of the FFM that could even endanger the national unity of the country,” he said.

He said the resolution’s intrusive language and demands would not contribute to finding lasting resolutions to the delicate situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The resolution sets up a body to “collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011, and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings”.

The new agency is to work closely with any future prosecution brought by the ICC, which said earlier this month that it had jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

A year ago, government troops led a brutal crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled the crackdown and most are now living in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.

The FFM report said Myanmar’s military had carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya with “genocidal intent” and called for commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and five named generals to be prosecuted for the gravest crimes.

In Thursday’s resolution, the Council said there was enough information to warrant a competent court “to determine their liability for genocide”.

Chinese diplomat Chen Cheng told the Council that Beijing opposed the resolution because it was very likely to exacerbate the tensions. “This is in no one’s interest,” he said.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Jon Boyle/Mark Heinrich

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