Global Law Updates
UN finds genocide in Rakhine
The UN's Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar was set up in March 2017 to investigate widespread allegations of human rights abuses in Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine state. In the report the Fact-Finding Mission has said that top military figures in Myanmar must be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and crimes against humanity in other areas. The report is considered as the strongest condemnation from the UN so far of the on-going violence against Rohingya Muslims.
The Government of Myanmar has consistently said that its operations targeted militant or insurgent threats but the report says that the crimes documented are “shocking for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity that is attached to them”. It categorically says that the tactics adopted by the army are “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”. “Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages,” the report says.
Crimes documented in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine include murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement that “undoubtedly amount to some of the gravest crimes under international law”. In Rakhine state, the report also found elements of extermination and deportation “similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocide intent to be established in other contexts”.
The report names six senior military figures it believes should go on trial and sharply criticises Myanmar's de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to intervene to stop attacks. It calls for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
However taking Myanmar to the ICC, as recommended by the report, is difficult. Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court and a referral to the ICC would need the backing of the permanent five Security Council members- and China is unlikely to agree. The report suggests, instead, the establishment of a special independent body by the UN, as happened with Syria, to conduct an investigation in support of war crimes and genocide prosecutions.
From the very beginning, Myanmar has been reluctant to accept the idea of a fact-finding mission and in furtherance of the denial, now is rejecting the findings concluded by its report.
The UN mission did not have access to Myanmar for its report but says it relied on such sources as eyewitness interviews, satellite imagery, photographs and videos. The mission said it would release a more detailed report on 18 September.