The United Nations panel on August 27th has explicitly called for Myanmar officials to face genocide charges for the crimes against Rohingya Muslims.
The horrific massacres and extrajudicial killings of Muslim minorities in a Buddhist majority Myanmar began on August 25th last year. Nearly 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims, now displaced and living in refugee camps across Bangladesh, have spoken to the Human Rights Council- sponsored team, providing clear evidence that suggests a gross violation of rights and one of the most violent military crackdowns in recent history, aimed at erasing an ethnic minority. The UN High commissioner for Human Rights described the massacre as “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The crimes committed include murder, rape, torture, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement, according to the independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. “Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingyas with genocidal intent and the commander in chief and five generals should be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under the law”, UN investigators said. The United Nations defined genocide as acts meant to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part.
The civilian Government led by Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi allowed hate speech to thrive, destroyed documents and failed to protect minorities from crimes against humanity and war crimes by the army in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan state, they said in a report. Ms Suu Kyi’s Government has rejected most allegations of atrocities made against the security forces by refugees. It has built transit centres to receive Rohingya returnees to western Rakhine state, but UN aid agencies say that it is not yet safe for them to return. “ The crimes in Rakhine state and the manner in which they perpetrated are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts”, said the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.I t also stated that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi has not used her de facto position as Head of Government, not her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.
The UN panel led by former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman stated that the Myanmar army’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Brigadier General Aung Aung, 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 so and the commander of 99th Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Than Oo should be tried in international court for genocide against Rohingya Muslims. The panel set up last year interviewed 875 victims and witnesses in Bangladesh and other countries and analyzed documents, videos, photographs and satellite images. The investigators found evidence that the violence committed by Myanmar Security Forces, undoubtedly amounted to the gravest crimes under international law. The mission which was created by the Human Rights Council in March 2017, concluded in its report that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) chain of command.
The report also criticized Facebook’s response to allegations, including by members of the same UN panel, that the social media giant had been used to incite violence and hatred against the Rohingyas. “Although improved in recent months, Facebook’s response has been slow and ineffective. The extent to which Facebook posts and messages have led to real-world discriminations and violence must be independently and thoroughly examined”, it said.
The report detailed a horrifying list of atrocities committed against the Rohingyas. They also found that soldiers had carried out ‘large-scale gang rape’ sometimes of as many as 40 girls and women at once, in at least 10 Rakhine villages. The scale, brutality and systematic nature of these violations indicate that rape and sexual violence are a part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorise or punish a civilian population and are used as a tactic of war.
Thus, Muslim Rohingyas were facing discrimination and violence from the Buddhist majority but the plight was going unnoticed by the world at large. There has been a great disappointment that Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose political party took power in Burma after decades of military rule, has failed to ease the plight of Rohingya despite her reputation as a fighter for Human Rights.
The Rohingyas now live under a constant fear of being caught, traumatised by the extreme violence portrayed by the people.
Their situation as social outcasts is now similar very similar to that of the Jews during Hitler’s reign. However, if the returning Rohingyas confine themselves to doing whatever job they were doing and practice their religion without interfering with the practices and customs of their Burmese neighbours it is possible that they and their progeny will continue to live and prosper in the land their ancestors had migrated into.