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The U.N. just called for Myanmar’s military to be prosecuted for genocide

The report documents a harrowing list of crimes, including murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery, and persecution.

by David Gilbert
Aug 27 2018, 11:00am

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A damning U.N. report published Monday accused the Myanmar military of committing genocide against Rohingya Muslims and called for prosecutions by the International Criminal Court.

Accusations of genocide are rare under international law, but investigators found ample evidence in the case of Myanmar to warrant the charge.

“The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts,” said the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

The report, published almost exactly a year since the start of a brutal crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, directly accuses six leading members of the Burmese military, as well as strongly criticising the lack of action taken by the government and in particular Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who failed to intervene and stop the violence.

”Aung San Suu Kyi has not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population,” the report says.

Rohingya refugees walk in a protest march after attending a ceremony to remember the first anniversary of a military crackdown, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2018. (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

One of those named in the publication is Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Facebook announced Monday the platform had blocked Min’s account as a result of the evidence uncovered by the U.N. mission.

Facebook was recently accused by the U.N. of facilitating the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya because its platform was used to supercharge the spread of hate speech against the group. The company told VICE News earlier this month that it was taking more direct action to address the situation — but activists worry that it's still not enough.

The company blocked a total of 18 accounts Monday, along with one Instagram account and 46 Pages, including some belonging to the military’s Myawady television network.

U.N. investigators criticized the government for barring their entry to the country, forcing them to rely on satellite imagery, photographs and videos as well as 875 eyewitness accounts from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and other countries.

The report documents a harrowing list of crimes, including murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery and persecution, which the investigators believe “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.”

READ: Rohingya militants massacred Hindu villagers, sparing only those who converted to Islam

The report said that the security forces’ response to attacks on 30 of their positions on August 25, 2017 in Rakhine state was “immediate, brutal and grossly disproportionate.”

The Myanmar government has consistently denied the extent of the atrocities conducted by the military, which acts independently of the government. The government claims the attacks that did take place were in response to terrorist threats. An internal investigation by the military cleared its own soldiers of any wrongdoing in relation to the Rohingya crisis.

But following the publication of the U.N.’s latest report, it will face much more scrutiny.

The report calls for an investigation by the International Criminal Court, but because Myanmar has not signed up to the Rome Statute, it will be difficult to get the investigation approved, requiring sign-off from all five permanent members of the Security Council, with China likely to veto.

As an alternative, the investigators suggest the establishment of a special independent body akin to the one probing war crimes in Syria.

Cover image: Rohingya refugees burst into tears during a protest march after attending a ceremony to remember the first anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2018. (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)