Many sexual and gender-based acts of violence committed by Myanmar military against the Rohingyas amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, said a new UN report.
Yet, the Myanmar government has failed to cease, prevent and take action against sexual and gender-based violence in the country and hold those responsible to account, said the report released yesterday in New York by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
The Mission also demanded Myanmar military stop sexual and gender-based violence to terrorise and punish ethnic minorities.
The report, based on interviews of hundreds of survivors and witnesses of sexual violence in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states, will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September.
More than 742,000 Rohingya fled a military crackdown “clearance operations” that began on August 25, 2017 and are living in Bangladesh. Efforts of repatriation for the second time failed yesterday, with the Rohingyas saying they have no guarantee of safety, citizenship and freedom of movement in Rakhine.
In 2018, the UN independent investigators said top military commanders in Myanmar should be investigated and prosecuted under international law for the “gravest” crimes against civilians, including genocide.
In the new report, the Mission concluded that soldiers routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people in blatant violation of international human rights laws.
“Extreme physical violence, the openness in which it is conducted … reflects a widespread culture of tolerance towards humiliation and the deliberate infliction of severe physical and mental pain or suffering on civilians,” the report said.
Marzuki Darusman, chair of the Fact-Finding Mission, said, “The international community must hold the Myanmar military to account for the tremendous pain and suffering it has inflicted on persons of all genders across the country.”
Mission expert Radhika Coomaraswamy said the findings also “address a gap that usually surrounds sexual and gender-based reports -- cases of sexual violence against men and boys and transgender people.”
“The silence must be broken,” she said.
The Mission said sexual violence perpetrated by the military was “part of a deliberate, well-planned strategy to intimidate, terrorise, and punish a civilian population”.
It said Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, demonstrated its genocidal intent against the Rohingya population through the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injures to their reproductive organs.
The forms of violence were so brutal that the victims may be unable to have sexual intercourse with their husbands or to conceive and leaving them concerned that they would no longer be able to have children, the report said.
The majority of assaults reported were directed at women and girls who were beaten, burned with cigarettes, slashed with knives, raped and held as sexual slaves in military bases. The report also documents cases of rape, forced nudity and the sexual torture of men and boys.
Mission expert Christopher Sidoti said, “We spoke to transgender Rohingya women, and found they are victimised twice, because they are Rohingya and because they are transgender.”
With hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees still in Bangladesh, too fearful to return home, the report should serve as an important reminder of the need for accountability of perpetrators and justice for victims, it said.
It makes a call to action to the government of Myanmar, the UN Security Council and the international community to make accountability for these grave crimes an urgent priority.