UN chief Antonio Guterres will travel to Bangladesh next week to take stock of the situation on the ground towards the safe, voluntary and dignified return of tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

According to the UN estimates, nearly 6,00,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 25 when the army launched a military crackdown, triggering one of the world’s worst refugee crises.

The Secretary General will travel on July 1 in a joint visit with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters here yesterday. He said the visit will highlight the generosity of Bangladesh in hosting the largest refugee influx of 2017 and the need of the international community to do more.

The visit also aims to lay the groundwork for further dialogue with the Government of Bangladesh on medium-term planning for the refugee situation and to reiterate the UN and the World Bank’s support for finding comprehensive solutions to the situation of the Rohingya people.

In Dhaka, Guterres and Kim will have bilateral meetings with Bangladeshi authorities, including with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. They will travel to Cox’s Bazar on July 2 to visit Rohingya refugee communities and humanitarian workers and advocate for more donor support.

They will be accompanied by High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi and Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Natalia Kanem. They will review the situation of the newly arrived Rohingyas in Bangladesh, and assess progress towards a safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees, in line with international standards.

Need for accountability

Meanwhile, UN rights expert on Myanmar is “strongly” recommending that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate and prosecute those allegedly responsible for “decades of crimes” in the form a grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law inside the country.

In a briefing to the Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee underscored that accountability for crimes committed in Myanmar “is the only way” to end the long-term cycle of violence.

“I strongly recommend the persons allegedly responsible for the violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC or a credible mechanism,” she said.

Even though the number of new arrivals has tapered off and an agreement reached on establishing conditions in Myanmar to allow the refugees to return voluntarily and in safety, UN agencies on the ground have reported that such conditions are yet not present.

In her briefing, Lee also drew attention to the possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by security forces in other regions of Myanmar, including in Kachin and Shan states, where other minorities have endured protracted conflicts since shortly after the country gained independence in 1948.

“Far too many crimes have been committed, and have been documented and reported with scant consequences faced by those who perpetrated them,” said the Special Rapporteur. The UN human rights expert also voiced “deep concern” over the “apparent inability” of the UN Security Council to unite to refer the situation to the ICC, and urged the Human Rights Council “as a matter of urgency”, to back her proposal to establish an international accountability mechanism.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar was first established in 1992. Since then, it has been extended annually, and broadened on two occasions — in 2014, in relation to the electoral process and in 2016, concerning priority areas for technical assistance.

In December last year, the Government of Myanmar denied all access to Lee and withdrew cooperation for the duration of her tenure.