MILITARY leaders in Myanmar must be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and crimes against humanity in other regions, a report by the UN-appointed investigators said this week.
The report by the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar, published on Monday, took the unprecedented step of naming six military commanders who should face prosecution, but said that this list was “not exhaustive”. It has called on the UN Security Council to refer the findings to the International Criminal Court.
The publication comes at the end of an 18-month fact-finding mission into alleged human-rights abuses, after the flight of more than 700,000 Muslim-minority Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh in August last year. The military launched a crackdown in Rakhine state last summer after Rohingya militants carried out deadly attacks on police posts.
Tens of thousands more Rohingya are believed to have been killed, or raped and maimed in the crackdown (News, 15, 8 September 2017).
The situation had been a “catastrophe looming for decades”, the report argues, and was the result of “severe, systemic and institutionalised oppression from birth to death” by the military against the Rohingya people.
Crimes documented in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine states include murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, and enslavement that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law. Rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale . . . part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorise or punish a civilian population, and are used as a tactic of war.”
“Rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale. Rape and sexual violence are part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorise or punish a civilian population, and are used as a tactic of war,” it argues.
PAThe actress Cate Blanchett, a United Nations Refugee Agency Goodwill Ambassador, addresses the Security Council on the Rohingya refugee crisis at the UN headquarters in New York, on Tuesday
The report criticises Myanmar’s de facto leader, the Nobel-laureate winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi, for failing to use her position to prevent the horrific violence perpetrated by the military against the Rohingya population. The actions of her civil authority “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes”, it said.
The social-networking service Facebook was also criticised for becoming a “useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate”.
It responded within minutes of the report’s publication by removing accounts belonging to the country’s military.
“We want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions,” the company said.
The Fact-finding Mission also criticised the UN itself for not doing enough to address human rights concerns and called for an inquiry into the UN’s involvement with Myanmar since 2011. The Mission said it would release a more detailed report on 18 September.
The Mission did not have access into Myanmar to compile its report, but instead used satellite evidence, interviews with refugees, and photographs and video footage to determine its findings.
To use the term genocide, the Mission had to prove “genocidal intent”. It argued that its findings of crimes, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, in Rakine state could be compared to other conflicts where such intent had been established.
The report also says that some abuses were committed by armed ethnic groups in Kachin and Shan states, and by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine.
Myanmar’s representative to the UN has rejected the report, saying that it was based on “one-sided information”. China has also said that putting pressure on Myanmar is “not helpful”.
The Mission said it would release a more detailed report on 18 September.
Read our leader comment on the situation: How evil wins