A United Nations investigation into the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) is calling for the country’s military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide.
In a report released this week, the UN accuses the Myanmar military of murder, imprisonment, and sexual violence against Rohingya Muslims – a minority group that lives mainly in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar. The report explicitly calls for the commander-in-chief and five generals to face genocide charges over their campaign against the Rohingya.
Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist, has long denied Rohingya basic rights such as citizenship. Rohingya have been fleeing persecution in Myanmar for years, but the exodus ramped up last August when troops launched a campaign against armed Rohingya groups in Rakhine state.
UN investigators documented mass killings, the destruction of hundreds of villages, and “large-scale” gang rape by Myanmar soldiers. At least 6,700 Rohingya died during the first month. More than 700,000 have fled to nearby Bangladesh, which is now home to the largest refugee camp in the world.
Based on satellite images and interviews with eyewitnesses, UN investigators concluded that human rights violations against the Rohingya “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.” The offensive has been described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Myanmar military insists it is fighting a terrorist insurgency in Rakhine state and has denied targeting civilians.
“Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages,” argues the UN report. “[Such] tactics are consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats, especially in Rakhine state.”
The UN report also criticizes Myanmar’s civilian government for failing to address the problem and notes the role of online hate speech in the campaign against the Rohingya.
UN officials are recommending the case be referred to the International Criminal Court in Hauge. It would be the first time genocide has ever been tried at the court, which was established in 2002 as the world’s first permanent war crimes court.
In the end, it will be up to the willingness of the UK and other veto-wielding UNSC members to forcefully pursue the allegations against Myanmar. â€¨
“The international community needs to send a firm signal to all perpetrators, including the Myanmar military, that crimes of this magnitude will not be allowed to pass unaccounted for,” said Michael McGrath of Save the Children.
More details about the UN investigation and its recommendations will be revealed next month in a 400-page report.