Almost a month after the United Nations investigators called for the prosecution of Myanmar military leaders on account of carrying out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state, the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released an exhaustive report detailing the brutal torture and abuse faced by the minority community in the country.
The Fact Finding Mission, which led an investigation in to the violence committed against Rohingya villagers, presented its finding to the Human Rights Council in form of a 400-page report that not only shed light on how the Burmese Army ruthlessly massacred innocent civilians, but also doubled down on calls to further investigate and prosecute senior officials of Myanmar’s armed forced, known as the Tatmadaw, for alleged crimes against humanity and genocide.
The recently-released report described the state-sanctioned genocide against the minority community in graphic details. It explained how soldiers attempted to “instill immediate terror” by raiding unsuspecting villages in the early hours of morning, where they would indiscriminately shoot men, brutally rape women, set homes on fire and kill people who try to flee.
After speaking to over 850 survivors who witnessed the destruction and human rights violations first hand, the investigators also revealed how Myanmar army would slit villagers’ throats after shooting them, just to make sure they are dead.
Women and children appeared to have suffered the worst fate.
Witnesses told the Mission how women and girls would be dragged out of their house and subjected to gang-raped by the security forces. According to the report, sometimes the victims would be stripped of their clothes and tied naked to tree by their hands or hair.
As for children, survivors recalled seeing military officials ripping babies from their mothers and drowning them in the river.
Meanwhile, the report claimed other dead bodies were either burned or buried in mass graves – the evidence of which has surfaced time and again.
“Peace will not be achieved while the Tatmadaw remains above the law,” said Marzuki Darusman, the chairman of the UN fact-finding mission. “The Tatmadaw is the greatest impediment to Myanmar's development as a modern democratic nation. The Commander-in-Chief of the Tatmadaw, Min Aung Hlaing, and all the current leadership must be replaced, and a complete restructuring must be undertaken to place the Tatmadaw under full civilian control. Myanmar's democratic transition depends on it.”
In the face of growing criticism and condemnation, the Myanmar government has denied the allegations of abuse. Instead, it claimed the entire operation was conducted to root out Rohingya militants.
However, the United Nations has refused to accept the justification.
“At the core of every incident and every human rights violation we examined was the extreme brutality of the Myanmar military,” Darusman told the Human Rights Council. “The killing of civilians of all ages, including babies, cannot be argued to be a counterterrorism measure. There can be no military imperative to rape women and girls or to burn people alive. It was a well-planned, deliberate attack on a specific civilian population.”
Shortly after the U.N. report was released, BBC reported the International Criminal Court, which investigates war crimes, has opened a preliminary probe into Myanmar's alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighboring Bangladesh after Burmese army began its brutal crackdown on their villages in August 2017, killing thousands.
Much of the state’s willingness to commit violence against the minority community came from its claim that the Rohingya are actually illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, a claim enshrined in the 1982 Citizenship Law which does not extend nationality to the Rohingya despite their deep roots in the country.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Cathal McNaughton