Fact-finding mission names military chief Min Aung Hlaing and five generals over atrocities against Rohingya, minorities.
By John Zaw
Mandalay: Senior military officials in Myanmar must be prosecuted for genocide and war crimes against Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities, a U.N. fact-finding mission has said. The mission, established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2017, found patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in the states of Rakhine, Kachin and Shan. “Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages,” the U.N stated in its Aug. 27 report.
“The Tatmadaw’s tactics are consistently and grossly disproportionate to the actual security threats, especially in Rakhine State, but also in northern Myanmar,” it said using the official name of the armed forces of Myanmar.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is also deliberating whether it has the mandate to prosecute Myanmar officials responsible for over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Rakhine State to Muslim-majority Bangladesh since a military crackdown began in August 2017 in response to attacks on security posts by suspected Rohingya insurgents.
The United Nations has dubbed the crackdown a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
“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.
The U.N. also warned Myanmar it has sufficient information “to warrant the investigation and prosecution” of senior officials in the Tatmadaw’s chain of command.
It said a “competent” court would determine their liability for “genocide” in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.
The U.N. report singled out Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s military chief, and five key generals it said should face justice.
It described the military’s response to the attacks last August by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) as brutal and premeditated.
They indicating a “a level of pre-planning and design” consistent with Min Aung Hlaing’s “unfinished job” of solving what Myanmar regards as its long-standing Bengali problem, the report stated.
It was referring to how Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship in Myanmar and seen as unwanted Bengali refugees despite having lived in the Buddhist-majority country for many decades.
The government co-run by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has allowed hate speech and failed to protect ethnic minorities in the country, the report found.
“Through their acts and omissions, the civilian authorities have contributed to the commission of atrocities and crimes,” it said.
The U.N. mission, which has not been granted access to Myanmar, interviewed 875 victims and witnesses of alleged crimes by Myanmar’s military, by speaking to refugees living in camps in Bangladesh and those in other countries.
It also analyzed documents, photos, videos and satellite images. A full report will be published and presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Sept. 18.
Amnesty International has said the U.N.’s report has brought yet more damning evidence of the Myanmar security forces’ atrocity crimes against the Rohingya and against ethnic minorities in northern Myanmar.
“This report, which adds to a mountain of evidence of crimes under international law committed by the military, shows the urgent need for independent criminal investigation and is clear that the Myanmar authorities are incapable of bringing to justice those responsible,” said Tirana Hassan, director of crisis response at Amnesty International.
Myanmar’s government and military leaders have yet to respond to the report.
Myanmar Military Chief Among Those Banned by Facebook
Facebook said on 27 August, that it is banning Myanmar’s powerful military chief and 19 other individuals and organizations from its site to prevent the spread of hate and misinformation. The social media giant was heavily criticized for permitting itself to be used to inflame ethnic and religious conflict in the country, particularly against minority Rohingya Muslims. It has been accused of being lax in fighting online misinformation and manipulation in many countries, but Myanmar is one where it has been most closely tied to deadly violence. Facebook said it also targeted pages and accounts that pretended to provide independent news and opinion, while covertly promoting messages of Myanmar’s military. It said it was deleting 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook pages.
Four high-ranking officers and two military units targeted by Facebook were also put on a US government blacklist earlier this month for human rights abuses. The sanctions block any property they own within the US and prohibit US citizens from engaging in transactions with them. The US already maintains restrictions on visas, arms sales and assistance to Myanmar’s military. Six officers on Facebook’s list were also named in the UN human rights report, which said Myanmar’s top leaders should be prosecuted for genocide. Those it recommended as “priority subjects for investigation and prosecution” included top commander Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing.