Following a mission to investigate claims against the military of Myanmar of human rights abuses, the UN has released a report that states top officials in the armed forces must be investigated for genocide and crimes against humanity.
The violence against Rohingya Muslims – one of the minority groups in the country – is largely taking place in the Rakhine state. Myanmar’s government has claimed it does not recognize the group, preferring to see them as immigrants from Bangladesh who are denied citizenship. So far, 700,000 Rohingya have fled the country since the escalated violence started a year ago.
As reported by the BBC, the report states that the military tactics are “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats.” Six senior military figures are also named in the report with the conclusion that they should go on trial for their involvement. These names include Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy. The UN has also heaped criticism on the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, for doing nothing to prevent the attacks.
The UN has suggested the case be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Unfortunately, Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that created the court. As such, a referral to the ICC requires the agreement of all five permanent Security Council members and is something China will likely not support.
Myanmar Rohingya: What will happen next after damning UN report? https://t.co/6vPlFNWw5b— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 27, 2018
Knowing this, the report instead suggests that an independent body be created to properly investigate the findings with an aim to prosecute those involved.
In August 2017, the discrimination against the Rohingya escalated to violence and mass attacks after militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) killed a number of policemen during attacks on police posts.
Myanmar denied the UN mission access to the country and has denied the mission’s findings. The UN had to rely on “eyewitness interviews, satellite imagery, photographs and videos.”
The crimes documented include “murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement that undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.” In Rakhine, in particular, the report found “elements of extermination and deportation similar in nature, gravity, and scope to those that have allowed genocide intent to be established in other contexts.”
Rape and violence "used as a tactic of war" against civilian population in #Myanmar as part of "deliberate strategy" - Independent Int'l Fact-finding Mission's Radhika Coomaraswamy. FULL report: https://t.co/Nom8PssF2I pic.twitter.com/DmICMIqwrM— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) August 27, 2018
The Myanmar government has repeatedly stated that the military is only reacting to insurgent threats, but the UN has called the crimes being reported as “shocking for the level of denial, normalcy, and impunity that is attached to them.”
“Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages,” the report reads.
Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to the UN, U Hau Do Suan, made a statement regarding the findings.
“As we did not accept the idea of a fact-finding mission from the beginning, we reject their report. The human rights abuses are one-sided accusations against us. This is designed at putting pressure on us by the international organisations. Their report is based on one-sided information from the people who fled to Bangladesh and the opposition groups.”
The UN very rarely proposes charging governments with genocide, and this report will make the situation in the country incredibly difficult for the international community to ignore.
A fully detailed report is expected to be released on September 18.