Amnesty International has demanded that Myanmar’s top military leaders to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation and prosecution, over crimes against humanity committed, during the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State.
The rights group named commander-in-chief, senior general, Min Aung Hlaing, and 12 other named individuals in its comprehensive report, We Will Destroy Everything: Military Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar, which was launched last week calling for justice.
“The explosion of violence—including murder, rape, torture, burning, and forced starvation—perpetrated by Myanmar’s security forces, in villages across northern Rakhine State was not the action of rogue soldiers or units. There is a mountain of evidence that this was part of a highly orchestrated, systematic attack on the Rohingya population,” said Matthew Wells, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International.
The UN has previously described the situation in Myanmar as an “ethnic cleansing.”
The rights group said its investigative team spent nine months gathering evidence of the brutal treatment of Rohingya Muslims in a crackdown that began in August last year after a radical Rohingya group attacked Myanmar security forces in the country’s western Rakhine state.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have since fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, as a consequence of a crackdown that the UN has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
“Those with blood on their hands—right up the chain of command to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing—must be held to account for their role in overseeing or carrying out crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations under international law,” Wells added.
In the report, Amnesty International also names nine of the commander-in-chief’s subordinates in the Tatmadaw—Myanmar’s armed forces—and three in the Border Guard Police (BGP) for their roles in the ethnic cleansing campaign.
The culmination of nine months of intensive research, including in Myanmar and Bangladesh, the report is Amnesty International’s most comprehensive account yet of how the Myanmar military forced more than 702,000 women, men and children—more than 80% of northern Rakhine State’s Rohingya population when the crisis started—to flee to Bangladesh after 25 August 2017.
The report provides new details about the Myanmar military’s command structure and troop deployments, as well as the security forces’ arrests, enforced disappearances and torture of Rohingya men and boys, in the weeks directly before the current crisis unfolded.
The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim group living in Rakhine state. They speak Rohingya or Ruaingga, and they have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982.
In some Rohingya villages, the incoming military commanders made their intentions clear from the start. Around 20 August 2017, five days before the bulk of the violence erupted, a field commander from the 33rd LID met in Chut Pyin, Rathedaung Township, with Rohingya leaders from nearby villages. According to seven people present interviewed separately by Amnesty International, the field commander threatened that if there was ARSA activity in the area, or if villagers did any “wrong,” his soldiers would shoot at the Rohingya directly, without any distinction.
“The international community should not be fooled by this latest attempt to shield perpetrators from accountability. Instead, it must finally put an end to the years of impunity and ensure that this dark chapter in Myanmar’s recent history is never repeated,” said Matthew Wells, adding, “the United Nations Security Council must stop playing politics and urgently refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar and impose targeted financial sanctions against senior officials responsible for serious violations and crimes,” elaborating, “while building international consensus and support for an ICC referral, the international community should use the UN Human Rights Council to set up a mechanism to collect and preserve evidence for use in future criminal proceedings,” adding, “a failure to act now in light of the overwhelming body of evidence begs the question: what will it take for the international community to take justice seriously?”
Al-Azhar called on international bodies and organisations, as well as on human rights associations, to undertake their duties and take all necessary measures to investigate “these horrible crimes and pursue their perpetrators.”
Last September, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb said that “a number of religious leaders in Myanmar allied themselves with some extremist elements in Myanmar armed forces to perpetuate a systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Muslim citizens,” accusing the Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of holding the Nobel Peace Prize in one hand and blesses with the other hand all crimes against peace, leaving peace a meaningless word.
Similarly, Egypt’s Dar Al-Ifta, the highest religious institution in the country, warned that the Islamic State militant group might use the Rohingya crisis to gain more ground and recruit more members.