Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingyas in the country’s Rakhine State with “genocidal intent”, UN investigators said today.
Genocide occurs when a person commits a prohibited act with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such. The Rohingyas are a protected group under this definition.
The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts, said an independent fact-finding mission of the United Nations (UN) on Myanmar in its report.
Their treatment of the Rohingyas by the Myanmar security forces includes conduct which amounts to four of the five defined prohibited acts -- killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part, and imposing measures intending to prevent births, the report read.
The Mission assessed its body of information in light of the jurisprudence of international tribunals regarding the reasonable inference of “genocidal intent”, the critical element of the crimes committed in Rakhine State.
Factors pointing at such intent include the broader oppressive context and hate rhetoric, specific utterances of commanders and direct perpetrators, exclusionary policies including to alter the demographic composition of Rakhine State, the level of organisation indicating a plan for destruction, and the extreme scale and brutality of the violence, according to the UN probe body’s report.
The Mission, after giving careful consideration to other possible inferences regarding the intent, considers that these can be discounted as unreasonable.
In this regard, the Mission notes that the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) Commander-in-Chief’s statement revealing the “clearance operations” were not a response to a concrete threat from ARSA, but to the “unfinished job” of “solving the long-standing Bengali problem”.
The Mission concluded that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.
Also, on the basis of information gathered, the Mission finds that crimes against humanity have been committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, principally by the Tatmadaw.
For Kachin and Shan States, these crimes against humanity included murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, persecution, and enslavement, according to the report.
In Rakhine State, these and additional crimes against humanity were committed, the investigators said.
For both northern Myanmar and Rakhine State, the elements of extermination and deportation were also present, and the systematic oppression and discrimination on a civilian population are tantamount to not only persecution, but also the crime of apartheid, the report added.
Considering the fact that non-international armed conflicts existed in Kachin and Shan States (for the entire period under review) and in Rakhine State at least since August 2017, much of the conduct which gives rise to crimes against humanity will also satisfy the elements of war crimes, according to the probe report.
The elements of war crimes include murder, torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, attacking and displacing civilians, pillaging, attacking protected objects, taking hostages, sentencing or execution without due process, as well as rape, sexual slavery, and sexual violence, the investigators said.
Certain acts committed by EAOs and ARSA may also constitute war crimes, they added.