By Prarthana Mitra
A group of United Nations investigators have concluded that Myanmar’s military leaders should be tried for genocide for the shocking crimes by them against Rohingya Muslims. This is the most severe condemnation of the incident by the international peace-keeping organisation, which was asked to conduct a probe into the mass killing and emigration of Muslims from the Rakhine state last year.
Observations by the fact-finding team
According to The Independent, the fact-finding mission’s final report categorically states, “Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages.” Released on Monday, the document has also named six high-ranking army officers including Myanmar’s commander-in-chief, as “priority subjects” who should be prosecuted for acting with “genocidal intent”, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the investigative team, also said Myanmar’s military commander Min Aung Hlaing should step down in the wake of the report. According to NPR, the investigators have prepared a longer list of perpetrators that will be released in due course.
The report has however made note of the fact that Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was not a direct participant in the genocide, but is still culpable for inaction, denial, destruction of evidence and interference with outside investigation.
The UN’s mission was not granted access to Myanmar to investigate the attacks. The report was based on satellite imagery, photographs and videos and “875 in-depth interviews with victims and eyewitnesses.”
Why it matters
The horrific massacres and extra-judicial killings of Muslim minorities in a Buddhist-majority Myanmar began on August 25 last year. Nearly 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims, now displaced and living in refugee camps across Bangladesh, have spoken to the Human Rights Council-sponsored team, providing clear evidence that suggests a gross violation of rights and one of the most violent military crackdowns in recent history, aimed at erasing an ethnic minority.
The crimes are “shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity” and “for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity that is attached to them,” the researchers concluded. “Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.” Although the number of fatalities hasn’t be ascertained yet, the UN team says that it is “conservative” to assume that it is somewhere near 10,000.
The army had denied the claims of ethnic cleansing from the beginning and continue to maintain that they were responding to violent attacks by a Rohingya Muslim militant group. While the refugees continue to live without a home, basic rights or citizenship, the world awaits the final version of the report, to be released in September, and for the accused to face the consequences of their action.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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