UN calls for prosecution of Myanmar military as report outlines war crimes

UN calls for prosecution of Myanmar military as report outlines war crimes

Rohingya Muslims look for safety in squalor refugee camps (Photo: UNHCR)

'I was lucky, I was only raped by three men,' one victim said

WASHINGTON — Myanmar’s top generals and commander should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes against Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities, a United Nations’ commission said Monday.

“Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages,” the report by the U.N. Human Rights Council said in the report. “The (military’s) tactics are consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats, especially in Rakhine State, but also in northern Myanmar.”

The Commission’s Mission spent a year investigating the situation and concluded that the crimes against humanity committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states included murder; imprisonment; enforced disappearance; torture; rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence; persecution and enslavement. In addition, in Rakhine State, the elements of the crimes against humanity of extermination and deportation are also present.

“They are shocking for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity that is attached to them,” the report said. “The (military’s) contempt for human life, integrity and freedom, and for international law generally, should be a cause of concern for the entire population.”

The Mission said that “there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials” in the military chain of command before international courts — either the International Criminal Court or for an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to be created— starting at the top, with the commander of the military, Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing.

Others named in the report are the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Vice Senior-General Soe Win; the Commander, Bureau of Special Operations-3, Lieutenant-General Aung Kyaw Zaw; the Commander, Western Regional Military Command, Major-General Maung Maung Soe; the Commander, 33rd Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Aung Aung; the Commander, 99th Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Than Oo.

“A longer list of names will be kept in the custody of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and can be shared with any competent and credible body pursuing accountability in line with international norms and standards,” the report said.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has rejected allegations of atrocities.  Military officials have maintained security forces were responding to attacks by Rohingya militants on Myanmar police posts and an army station on Aug. 25, 2017.

The 18-page report also said that while civilian authorities had little scope to control the actions of the military, “through their acts and omissions, the civilian authorities have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes.”

Among those cited is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights,”  for not using her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, “to stem or prevent the unfolding events,” the report said.

The Mission was never granted access to Myanmar.

The investigating team collected information from primary sources, including through 875 in-depth interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, satellite imagery and authenticated documents, photographs and videos.  “Only verified and corroborated information was relied upon,” the report said.

“Specialist advice was sought on sexual and gender-based violence, psychology, military affairs and forensics. Only verified and corroborated information was taken on board. The Mission travelled to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the United Kingdom,” the U.N. news release on the report said.

A more detailed, 400-page report, along with analysis, is being prepared for the Human Rights Council on September 18.

The report documented mass killings, the scorching of Rohingya settlements and large-scale gang rape and other sexual violence by soldiers. Testimony of those interviewed underscored the brutality. As one victim of sexual violence told the mission team: “I was lucky; I was only raped by three men.”

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