UN envoy says Rohingya 'targeted' for gang rapes

Myanmar soldiers "systematically targeted" Rohingya women for gang rape during violence against the minority Muslim community, a UN special envoy said on Sunday. 

Rohingya refugee women cry while crossing the Naf River with an improvised raft to reach to Bangladesh in Teknaf, Bangladesh, November 12, 2017.

Myanmar soldiers “systematically targeted” Rohingya women for gang rape during violence against the minority Muslim community that triggered an exodus to Bangladesh, a UN special envoy said on Sunday. 

Pramila Patten, a special representative of the UN Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, made the comments after visiting Bangladesh’s southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar where about 610,000 Rohingya have taken refuge in the past 10 weeks.

Many of these atrocities “could be crimes against humanity,” she said.

“I heard horrific stories of rape and gang rape, with many of the women and girls who died as a result of the rapes,” Patten said.

“My observations point to a pattern of widespread atrocities, including sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls who have been systematically targeted on account of their ethnicity and religion.”

The sexual violence in Myanmar’s northern state of Rakhine was “commanded, orchestrated and perpetrated by the armed forces of Myanmar,” she said.

“The forms of sexual violence we consistently heard about from survivors include gang rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation and sexual slavery in military captivity.

“One survivor described being held in captivity by the Myanmar armed forces for 45 days, during which time she was repeatedly raped. Others still bore visible scars, bruises and bite marks attesting to their ordeal.”

Deadly raids by Rohingya militants on Myanmar police posts on August 25 sparked ferocious reprisals against the community by the military in the mainly Buddhist nation.

Patten said others involved in the sexual violence included Myanmar border police and militias composed of Buddhists and other ethnic groups in Rakhine.

Refugees are still streaming across the border from Rakhine into Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands have settled in squalid camps.

The UN estimates that the majority of the Rohingya once living in Rakhine — previously estimated at about 1 million — have fled a campaign of violence it has likened to ethnic cleansing.

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