The 600,000 Rohingya remaining inside Myanmar face systematic persecution and live under the threat of genocide, an independent international UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar says in a new report.
“The threat of genocide continues for the remaining Rohingya,” said Marzuki Darusman, chair of the fact-finding mission, recalling that a year ago the mission said it had found “genocidal acts” in Myanmar’s 2017 “clearance operations” that killed thousands and caused more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee for their lives to Bangladesh.
“Myanmar is failing in its obligation to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalising and punishing genocide,” Darusman said.
The report, published on 16 September, was to be presented the following day to the UN Human Rights Council, which created the mission in 2017. It says Myanmar’s ethnic groups have a common – but not identical – experience of marginalisation, discrimination and brutality at the hands of the Myanmar armed forces, the Tatmadaw.
The report includes much new information about human rights abuses resulting from the Tatmadaw’s decades-long fight against the country’s minority ethnic groups.
On the Tatmadaw’s conflict with the Arakan Army, the report says: “In an attempt to prevent civilian support to the insurgency, the Tatmadaw has cut the lifelines of ethnic Rakhine communities, restricting both people’s freedom of movement and humanitarian access” so that many cannot make a living or get food.
Detailing violations of international humanitarian law in northern Myanmar, the report finds “torture and ill-treatment” of suspected insurgents and says sexual and gender-based violence by the Myanmar military “remains a prominent feature of the conflicts in Shan and Kachin States”.
Over the last two years, the mission interviewed nearly 1,300 victims and eyewitnesses, and thoroughly documented human rights abuses in Rakhine, Chin, Shan, Kachin and Karen States.
“Shedding light on the grave human rights violations that occurred and still are occurring in Myanmar is very important but not sufficient,” said mission expert Radhika Coomaraswamy.
“Accountability is important not only to victims but also to uphold the rule of law. It is also important to prevent repetition of the Tatmadaw’s past conduct and prevent future violations.”
The mission now has transferred the information it collected about serious crimes under international law to the UN’s new independent investigative mechanism for Myanmar.
The mechanism will build on this evidence and conduct its own investigations to support prosecutions in national, regional and international courts of perpetrators of atrocities in Myanmar.
Against a background of domestic impunity, the mission says, “accountability can only be advanced by the international community.” The mission says it has a confidential list of over 100 names, including Myanmar officials, suspected of being involved in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, in addition to six generals it named publicly a year ago.
The report says the “deplorable” living conditions of an estimated 600,000 Rohingya still inside Myanmar have worsened in the last year, and continuing persecution is a way of life in Rakhine state. These facts underscore the impossibility of return for the nearly one million Rohingya refugees, mostly in Bangladesh.
In the 16 September report, the fact-finding mission also says Myanmar incurs state responsibility under the prohibition against genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as for other violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The finding of “state responsibility” means that Myanmar should be brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for failing to honour its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention, one of the few international human rights instruments it has ratified.
The report says the huge number of brutal human rights violations committed in Myanmar requires many avenues of justice. It called on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or to establish an ad hoc tribunal, like the ones for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The three experts called on the international community to continue to shine a spotlight on Myanmar, to demand accountability and not to lose interest in continuing abuses there.
“The scandal of international inaction has to end,” said mission expert Christopher Sidoti. “Over the past 60 years the military has destroyed Myanmar, politically and economically. The peoples of Myanmar have suffered severely.
“The military operations against the Rohingya in 2017 – as exceptionally intense and brutal as they were – are part of a bigger, longer, more general pattern of extreme military violence. Unless the United Nations and the international community take effective action this time, this sad history is destined to be repeated.”
The full report, along with additional documentation, fact sheets and media materials, can be accessed here.