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FILE PHOTO: A Rohingya refugee stands outside her makeshift shelter at Hakim Para refugee settlement near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera

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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - 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.

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.

Pope Francis met leaders of several faiths in majority-Buddhist Myanmar on Tuesday, stressing the importance of "unity in diversity" but making no mention of the minority Muslim Rohingya on his first day of a visit.

He later said in a speech that civil conflict and hostilities there had "lasted all too long and created deep divisions", but again did not refer to the Rohingya.

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 non-natural causes during the latest outbreak of violence," it said in a statement.

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 August 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.

Reuters reported on Monday that the U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to hold a special session in Geneva on December 5 on killings, rapes and other crimes committed against Rohingya in Myanmar.

The watchdog panel said it had also "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".

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Tom Miles)

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