Result of investigations on war crimes against Rohingya Muslims

An independent commission established by Myanmar’s government has concluded there are reasons to believe that security forces committed war crimes in counterinsurgency operations that led more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

However, the commission, headed by a Philippine diplomat, said in a report given Monday to President Win Myint that there is no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out against the Rohingya.

The Independent Commission of Enquiry announced its findings in a statement posted on its Facebook page and the full report does not appear to have been publicly released. Nevertheless, it went further than any public statements issued by Myanmar’s government in suggesting government forces were guilty of major abuses.

“Although these serious crimes and violations were committed by multiple actors, there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of Myanmar’s security forces were involved” in war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law in 2017, it said.

“The killing of innocent villagers and destruction of their homes were committed by some members of the Myanmar’s security forces through disproportionate use of force during the internal armed conflict,” it said.

The statement came ahead of a decision by the United Nations’ top court, scheduled for Thursday, on a request that Myanmar be ordered to halt what has been cast as a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.

Gambia brought legal action last year to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, alleging on behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation that genocide occurred and continues.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s top leader, strongly denied wrongdoing by government forces at the initial hearing on the case in December . Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

The long-simmering crisis exploded in August 2017 when Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine State in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.

Thoughs she has no control over the country’s military, Suu Kyi’s response to the crisis has led to global condemnation of the Nobel peace laureate. The Independent Commission of Enquiry statement Monday said its members also met with Suu Kyi when submitting the report.

In addition to finding a basis for wrongdoing by security forces, the statement said the report also points out that the security forces acted in response to deadly attacks organized by Rohingya guerrillas belonging to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army — ARSA.

The commission’s announcement said it would hand over its 461-page report to be used for investigations and possible prosecutions by Myanmar civil and military authorities. The commission is led by senior Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo, and included retired Japanese diplomat Kenzo Oshima, Myanmar presidential adviser Aung Tun Thet and legal expert Mya Theinn.

The inclusion of the Myanmar members close to the government raised doubts about its ability to deliver a credible report, especially because separate earlier investigations by the government and military did not yield much trustworthy information.

The panel’s investigation, “including its methodology and operations, has been far from transparent,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. Pending release of the full report, Robertson said the panel’s findings “are what would have been expected from a non-transparent investigation by a politically skewed set of commissioners working closely with the Myanmar government. There is mention of ‘serious human rights violations’ but no attempt to address allegations of crimes against humanity.”

He said there would be no truth or accountability “u nless all those in the security forces, regardless of position or rank, involved in the mass crimes against the Rohingya are fully investigated and fairly prosecuted.”

A U.N. team also conducted a major investigation and found grounds for bringing charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Its members last year expressed skepticism that Manalo’s mission could lead to accountability for the alleged abuses.

The U.N. team’s members were not allowed to enter Myanmar. They did much of their work interviewing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Independent Commission of Enquiry said its investigators were dispatched to Rakhine State, where the violence occurred, Yangon and the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw “for evidence collection.” But it makes no mention of visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh.

War Crimes: The U.N. insists on prosecuting indicted Myanmar soldiers

Rohingya

The international community on Monday supported the UN report, which called for an investigation and prosecution of Myanmar’s top military officials on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Rohingya Muslims.

The report prepared by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar stated that human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States need to be probed at the International Criminal Court.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party said that the report is an important evidence.

In a Twitter post, Omer Celik, spokesman of the (AK) Party said: “Institutions, especially the UN should not limit their duties on identifying and condemning the crime. We must hear an immediate and effective action plan on how to stop this crime.”

On Aug. 25, 2017, Myanmar launched a major military crackdown on the Muslim ethnic minority, killing almost 24,000 civilians and forcing 750,000 others to flee to Bangladesh, according to the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

In its recent report — titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience — the OIDA increased the estimated number of murdered Rohingya to 23,962 (±881) from an earlier Doctors Without Borders figure of 9,400.

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, the OIDA report said, adding that 17,718 (±780) Rohingya women and girls were raped by the Myanmar army and police. More than 115,000 Rohingya houses were burned and 113,000 others were vandalized, it added.

In a news conference in Brussels, Maja Kocijancic, the EU foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the situation in Rakhine state remains serious and called for action against the prepatrators involved in human rights violations.

Domestic acceptance

Kocijancic said a meeting is planned to be held with the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar this week.

Mark Field, the U.K.’s minister of state for Asia and the Pacific, also commented on the report.

“We will discuss options for bringing the report before the Security Council with other members once the Fact Finding Mission have made their final presentation to the Human Rights Council in September,” he said in a statement.

Field stated that there is also an urgent need for “domestic acceptance and accountability in Myanmar.”

“It is now essential the Burmese government sets out how its Commission of Inquiry will be able to investigate these crimes with full impartiality and how it will be linked to a judicial process to hold those responsible to account,” he added.

The Human Rights Watch also called on the UN Security Council to seek justice for Myanmar atrocities.

“The Fact-Finding Mission’s powerful report and clear recommendations demonstrate the obvious need for concrete steps to advance criminal justice for atrocious crimes, instead of more hollow condemnations and expressions of concern,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s director for Asia.

Adams also said that UN member states should create a mechanism “to ensure those most responsible for grave crimes do not escape prosecution.”

Culture of violence

“So far, condemnations without action by UN member states have only emboldened a culture of violence and oppression in Myanmar,” Adams said.

“This report should eliminate any doubt about the urgency of investigating those responsible for mass atrocities. The time to act is now,” he added.

The report by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar is based on 875 interviews of witnesses and victims.

The report added that crimes against humanity committed on Rohingya Muslims include murder, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence.

The report said that accountability needs to be ensured under international law “preferably by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court or alternatively by creating an ad hoc international criminal tribunal.”

It also called on the UN Security Council to adopt “targeted individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against those who appear most responsible for serious crimes under international law.”

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children, and women have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In its report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Army chief denies rape against Rohingya Muslims

Myanmar’s army chief denied his forces committed rape and other sexual abuses during a crackdown he ordered on Rohingya Muslims, as he addressed UN Security Council delegates in the capital Naypyidaw.

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Senior General Min Aung Hlaing heads an army accused of “ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations, including the widespread rape and murder of civilians in its “clearance operations” ostensibly targeting Rohingya militants.

Launched in August 2017, that campaign drove around 700,000 Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh, fleeing burnt villages and army atrocities.

Denied access to Myanmar in the months immediately after the crisis, a UN Security Council delegation is making a belated first visit to Myanmar to ratchet up pressure for a safe and dignified return of the Muslim minority.

Late Monday they met the army chief, who controls all security matters in the country without oversight from the elected government.

“The Tatmadaw (army) is always disciplined… and takes action against anyone who breaks the law,” he told the delegates, according to a post late Monday on his official Facebook page.

Rohingya women and girls in Bangladesh have provided consistent accounts of sexual violence — reports verified by conflict monitors — but Min Aung Hlaing said his forces have “no such history of sexual abuse.”

“It is unacceptable according to the culture and religion of our country,” he said, adding anyone found guilty of crimes would be punished.

He also repeated the official line that Myanmar was ready to take back the refugees who could be verified as residents as per a repatriation deal with Bangladesh.

Several months after the deal was signed, no refugees have returned.

That has enraged Bangladeshi officials, who accuse Myanmar of pretending to co-operate for the benefit of the international community.

Calling the refugees “Bengalis” — official shorthand for illegal immigrants from over the border — Min Aung Hlaing blamed “terrorists” for causing the violence.

he UN delegates will travel by helicopter Tuesday over the scarred landscape of northern Rakhine state and give a press conference back in the capital Naypyidaw later in the afternoon.

Their visit to Myanmar comes after an emotionally-charged stay in Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees told delegates of their trauma including sexual abuse.

Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship and the accompanying rights.

It has driven two thirds of its roughly 1.5 million Rohingya population out since 2012.

But the country is under mounting pressure to respond to a humanitarian crisis of its making.

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi also met the UN delegates on Monday afternoon, urging their understanding of a complex, festering conflict and vowing to repatriate the refugees.