Myanmar military leaders should be tried for genocide against Rohingya

27 August, 2018, 23:13 | Author: Rachel Logan
  • A Rohingya woman at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh on Friday

The call, accompanying the first report by United Nations investigators, amounts to some of the strongest language yet from United Nations officials who have denounced alleged human rights violations in Myanmar since a bloody crackdown began last August. The civilian government, the report said, failed to speak out against unfolding events, spread "false narratives, oversaw the destruction of evidence in Rakhine state and blocked independent investigations". Myanmar's court system is not independent enough to provide accountability, and the government is "unable and unwilling" to prosecute these crimes, putting the burden on the global community, the investigators concluded.

The report recommends the case be referred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, or for an ad hoc tribunal to be created to investigate the actions of the alleged perpetrators.

The report said the "clearance operations" to drive out the Rohingya were led by the army, along with other security forces such as the Myanmar Police Force and the Border Guard Police.

The fact-finding mission went beyond the military's actions in Rakhine and investigated its conduct more broadly since 2011, a time when the world was celebrating the country's opening to the West and nominally democratic transformation.

Speaking in Geneva, three human rights experts said Myanmar's military, known locally as the Tatmadaw, had demonstrated "genocidal intent".

"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", the report said, alluding to a region of Myanmar that is home for many Rohingya.

However, Facebook banned Myanmar's army chief and removed other pages tied to the country's military on Monday after the findings of United Nations probe were made public.

The council created the mission in March a year ago - almost six months before a string of deadly rebel attacks on security and police posts set off a crackdown that drove Rohingya to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh. The court had been due to deliver a verdict on Monday, but at a brief hearing postponed the hearings until September 3.

In April, seven soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor for participating in the massacre.

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They were charged with violating a colonial-era state secrets act for possessing classified documents about Rakhine state, claims undercut by a police witness who said his superior had ordered a set-up and by arguments that the documents had been published in state media.

Zaw Htay, spokesman for Suu Kyi's government, could not immediately be reached for comment.

But the report said the crimes it documented were "shocking for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity that is attached to them".

Decades of state-sponsored stigmatization against Rohingya had resulted in "institutionalized oppression from birth to death", the report said.

Other generals named in the report included army deputy commander-in-chief Vice Senior-General Soe Win; the commander of the Bureau of Special Operations-3, Lieutenant-General Aung Kyaw Zaw; the commander of Western Regional Military Command, Major-General Maung Maung Soe; and the commander of 99th Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Than Oo. The government, however, sees them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and denies them citizenship.

The Rohingya are one of the many ethnic minorities in Myanmar and make up the largest percentage of Muslims.

"We are banning 20 Burmese individuals and organizations from Facebook - including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces", the California-based company said in a statement on its site, adding that it wants to prevent them from using the service to "further inflame ethnic and religious tensions". Facebook also said it had removed pages that the US government had previously named as Russian military intelligence services.

Facebook deleted the accounts of these officials after the report's release, as well as other pages associated with the Myanmar military.

"Although improved in recent months, Facebook's response has been slow and ineffective".

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