United Nations investigators on Monday released a report accusing Myanmar’s military of carrying violent operations against the Rohingya Muslim minority that amount to “genocidal intent,” and called for the five generals and their commander-in-chief to be prosecuted under international law.
Saturday marked one year since the start of this latest crackdown against the Rohingya, who have for decades been stripped of their rights — from citizenship to freedom of movement — and the consequences have been unfathomable.
“We do not have a copy of a direct order that says ‘undertake genocide tomorrow please’. But that is the case almost universally when cases of genocide have gone before the courts.”
At least 10,000 Rohingya have been killed — that’s roughly the same number as those killed in the three-year-long war in Yemen. Only in Myanmar, almost all of those killed are civilians (in Yemen, that number is roughly half of those killed), and there are no airstrikes. These civilians have been killed, village by village, shot, hacked, burned, and starved.
With hundreds of their villages burned (as documented by satellite images), many of the roughly 700,000 who made it across the border to Bangladesh have told authorities and aid workers of the brutality of the attacks, which have included mass rapes and the killing of infants. The U.N. panel interviewed 875 of these victims and witnesses in Bangladesh and elsewhere.
Those responsible are: Military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, Brigadier-General Aung Aung, Vice Senior-General Soe Win, Lieutenant-General Aung Kyaw Zaw, Major-General Maung Maung Soe, and Brigadier-General Than Oo.
The report named Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for “failing to use her ‘moral authority’ to protect civilians. Her government ‘contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes’ by letting hate speech thrive, destroying documents and failing to shield minorities from crimes against humanity and war crimes,” according to Reuters.
The wire service reached out to the Myanmar military spokesman as well as Suu Kyi’s spokesman — both declined to comment.
The U.N. Security Council, in addition to imposing an arms embargo on Myanmar and setting targeted sanctions against the military leaders named, will set up a tribunal to try the suspects and hand them over to the International Criminal Court.
The report also accused Facebook of allowing its platform to be used to incite hatred and violence against the Rohingya.
Suu Kyi and her government have rejected the allegations made against the military and have branded the accounts given by refugees as “fake news.” Suu Kyi has maintained that the country is merely defending itself from Rohingya “terrorists.”
In April, however, seven soldiers were sentenced to a decade in prison for participating in one of the massacres, known as the Inn Din killings, which left 10 Rohingya men shot or hacked to death and tossed in a shallow grave.
The U.N. report said the unrelenting military response to a deadly Rohingya insurgent attack on border posts in August 2017, however, has been “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats.”
Although the United Nations, humanitarian, and human rights groups have had limited access to Myanmar and, specifically, to the Rakhine state, which was home to the roughly 1.1 million Rohingya at one point, U.N. panel member Christopher Sidoti told reporters, “We do not have a copy of a direct order that says ‘undertake genocide tomorrow please.’ But that is the case almost universally when cases of genocide have gone before the courts.”
Ahead of the gruesome anniversary, Amnesty International released a scathing statement, slamming the international community’s failure “to hold to account those responsible for crimes against humanity, the international community risks sending the message that Myanmar’s military will not only enjoy impunity but will be allowed to commit such atrocities again.”
On Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who has not had much to say about the plight of the Rohingya, opting to focus more on North Korea’s nuclear program and sanctions on Iran — finally tweeted a statement on the topic.
A year ago, following deadly militant attacks, security forces responded by launching abhorrent ethnic cleansing of ethnic #Rohingya in Burma. The U.S. will continue to hold those responsible accountable. The military must respect human rights for #Burma’s democracy to succeed.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 26, 2018
Using the old name for Myanmar, Pompeo, like his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, did not use the term “genocide,” which is defined as acts “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole, or part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” and is a crime under international law.
Pompeo opted for the softer, “ethnic cleansing,” which is defined as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.” It is not a violation of any specific international law.