Around 600,000 Rohingyas remaining inside Myanmar face systematic persecution and live under the threat of genocide, said the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in a new report published today.
“The threat of genocide continues for the Rohingyas remaining in Myanmar,” said Marzuki Darusman, chair of the Fact-Finding Mission.
The Mission, which was formed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, last year said its investigation had found “genocidal acts” in Myanmar’s “clearance operations” in 2017 that killed thousands and caused more than 740,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.
“Myanmar is failing in its obligation to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide,” Darusman said.
The report, to be presented to the Human Rights Council’s 42nd session in Geneva on Tuesday, says Myanmar’s ethnic groups have a common – but not identical – experience of marginalisation, discrimination and brutality at the hands of the Myanmar armed forces, the Tatmadaw.
The report includes much new information about human rights abuses resulting from the Tatmadaw’s decades-long fight against the country’s minority ethnic groups.
On the Tatmadaw’s conflict with the Arakan Army, the report says: “In an attempt to prevent civilian support to the insurgency, the Tatmadaw has cut the lifelines of ethnic Rakhine communities, restricting both people’s freedom of movement and humanitarian access” so that many cannot make a living or get food.
Detailing violations of international humanitarian law in northern Myanmar, the report finds “torture and ill-treatment” of suspected insurgents, and says sexual and gender-based violence by the Myanmar military “remains a prominent feature of the conflicts in Shan and Kachin States”.
Over the last two years, the Mission interviewed nearly 1,300 victims and eyewitnesses, and thoroughly documented human rights abuses in Rakhine, Chin, Shan, Kachin and Karen States.
“Shedding light on the grave human rights violations that occurred and still are occurring in Myanmar is very important but not sufficient,” said Mission Expert Radhika Coomaraswamy.
“Accountability is important not only to victims but also to uphold the rule of law. It is also important to prevent repetition of the Tatmadaw’s past conduct and prevent future violations.”
The mission now has transferred the information it collected about serious crimes under international law to the UN’s new Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
Against a background of domestic impunity, the Mission says, “Accountability can only be advanced by the international community.”
The Mission says it has a confidential list of over 100 names, including Myanmar officials, suspected of being involved in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, in addition to six generals it named publicly a year ago.
The report says the “deplorable” living conditions of an estimated 600,000 Rohingya still inside Myanmar have worsened in the last year, and continuing persecution is a way of life in Rakhine State.
These facts underscore the impossibility of return for the nearly one million Rohingya refugees, mostly in Bangladesh.
In today’s report, the Fact-Finding Mission also says Myanmar incurs state responsibility under the prohibition against genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as for other violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The finding of “state responsibility” means that Myanmar should be brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for failing to honour its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention, one of few international human rights instruments it has ratified.
The report says the huge number of brutal human rights violations committed in Myanmar requires many avenues of justice. It called on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or to establish an ad hoc tribunal, like the ones for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The three Experts called on the international community to continue shining a spotlight on Myanmar.
“The scandal of international inaction has to end,” said Mission Expert Christopher Sidoti.
“Over the past 60 years the military has destroyed Myanmar, politically and economically. The peoples of Myanmar have suffered severely. The military operations against the Rohingya in 2017 – as exceptionally intense and brutal as they were – are part of a bigger, longer, more general pattern of extreme military violence. Unless the United Nations and the international community take effective action this time, this sad history is destined to be repeated,” the mission expert added.