A UN report released on Monday 27 August has concluded that Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya with “genocidal intent” in Rakhine state and the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted.
It has been one year since 25 August 2017 when hundreds of thousands of the Rohingya population streamed into Bangladesh, as a result of a brutal crackdown carried out by the Myanmar army that was described by the United Nations as “textbook ethnic cleansing”.
The report names six senior military figures it believes should go on trial and sharply criticises Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to intervene to stop attacks.
The UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar was initially set up in March 2017 to investigate widespread allegations of human rights abuses in Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine state.
The UN mission found Myanmar’s armed forces had taken actions that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”, forcing more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee starting in late August 2017.
The report singled out Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, but added that other Myanmar security agencies were also involved in abuses.
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. It calls for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The situation was a “catastrophe looming for decades”, the report argues, and the result of “severe, systemic and institutionalised oppression from birth to death”.
Crimes documented in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine include murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”.
The mission said it would release a more detailed report on 18 September when it will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council and then potentially to the UN Security Council.
According to the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), over the past year, there has been an influx of 919,000 refugees who have been displaced from their villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
They live in 32 camps in the Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts, or upazilas, of the tourist beach town Cox’s Bazar, joining the 300,000 other Rohingya who were displaced in previous years.
There have been reports of hundreds of babies born as a result of rapes of Rohingya girls and women by the Myanmar military that is now posing social problems for the victims of rapes in the refugee camps.
The camps suffer from overcrowding and squalid conditions, with sanitation problems and lack of basic infrastructure.
About 200,000 Rohingya are at risk of landslides during the monsoon season, as the tarpaulin and bamboo shelters are built haphazardly on soft ground.
The situation for repatriation of these refugees back to Myanmar to their homelands seems hopeless and their suffering continues with no end in sight.