Myanmar generals must be tried for genocide: UN

GENEVA: Myanmar’s military has committed crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture, enslavement, violence against children and the destruction of whole villages, a UN report said on Monday. In Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas were driven away over the past year, there is evidence of genocide, the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said. The findings, focused on events since 2011, “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” the report states.
“Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages,” it said.
The report said powerful military leader Min Aung Hlaing and five other commanders should be among those prosecuted before an international tribunal. The UN experts also singled out Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to use her “moral authority” to prevent the campaign of atrocities. The Nobel Peace Prize-winner has been criticised since close to 700,000 people fled to neighbouring Bangladesh starting in August last year, provoked by a crackdown at the hands of Myanmar security forces in Rakhine state.
The military crackdown in 2017 came after Rohingya militants attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine state.
The military response was, however, “brutal and grossly disproportionate,” the UN report said. “What happened on 25 August 2017 and the following days and weeks was the realisation of a disaster long in the making.”
Rohingya, an ethnic minority group in Myanmar, were stripped of citizenship in 1982 and have been long subject to persecution in Rakhine state, where most live.
The majority of Burmese view the Rohingya minority as illegal immigrants and widely consider the violence to be a legitimate war against terrorists.
“The Government and the Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] have fostered a climate in which hate speech thrives, human rights violations are legitimised, and incitement to discrimination and violence facilitated,” the UN report said.
As the army operation in 2017 unfolded, “large-scale gang rape by Tatmadaw soldiers occurred in at least 10 village tracts of northern Rakhine State. Sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together,” the report said.
“There is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command” for genocide, it concluded.
It recommended referring the situation to the International Criminal Court — which would require the agreement of the UN Security Council — or creating an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to look into the matter.
The UN mission was not given permission to visit the places where the alleged atrocities took place, and said it regretted “the lack of cooperation from the Government of Myanmar.”
The experts said they had conducted 875 interviews with victims and eyewitnesses for the report. Eyewitness evidence was cross-referenced with satellite imagery, photographs, videos and other documents.
Facebook announced on Monday it would remove 20 individuals and organisations-including Min Aung Hlaing and the military’s Myawady television network, from the social media platform in response to the UN report. “International experts … have found evidence that many of these individuals and organisations committed or enabled serious human rights abuses in the country. And we want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions,” a statement released by the company said.
“By levelling these grave charges in such a comprehensively documented report, the fact-finding mission is declaring that time’s up for the system of impunity the Burmese [Myanmar] military has hidden behind for decades,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia.
— dpa