By Robin Gomes
An international rights watchdog has come up with a damning report on Myanmar’s military officials and commanders on their “crimes against humanity” against the country’s Rohingya minorities, and has called for their prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Amnesty International made the call in a comprehensive report it released on Wednesday entitled, “‘We Will Destroy Everything’: Military Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar.”
The London-based rights group said the words, “We Will Destroy Everything,” spoken by a military commander in a recording of a telephone call obtained by Amnesty’s investigators, sum up the mindset of Myanmar soldiers in dealing with the Rohingya who are mostly Muslim.
Crimes against humanity
Amnesty has gathered extensive, credible evidence implicating Myanmar’s military Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and 12 other named individuals in crimes against humanity committed during the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State since August last year.
Matthew Wells, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International said that there is evidence that “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 part of a “highly orchestrated, systematic attack on the Rohingya population.”
“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 said.
Amnesty’s 186-page report has documented that the security forces committed nine out of the 11 types of crimes against humanity listed in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The rights group said its report is the result of 9 months of intensive research by its investigative team in Myanmar and Bangladesh, on how the Myanmar military forced more than 700,000 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 United Nations and US officials have described Myanmar government’s campaign against the Rohingya as “ethnic cleansing”.
The report provides details about the security forces’ arrests, enforced disappearances and torture of Rohingya men and boys in the weeks directly before the current crisis unfolded.
It also provides the most detailed information to date about abuses by the armed group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), before and after it launched coordinated attacks on security posts on 25 August 2017. This includes killings of people from different ethnic and religious communities in northern Rakhine State, as well as the targeted killings and abductions of suspected Rohingya informants to the authorities.
Based on more than 400 interviews – as well as reams of corroborating evidence, including satellite imagery, verified photographs and videos, and expert forensic and weapons analysis – the new report goes into harrowing detail about the patterns of violations committed in the military’s “clearance operations” following the ARSA attacks.
“For years, the Myanmar security forces have been allowed to get away with their crimes, with devastating results for the people of the country, in particular its ethnic minorities,” Amnesty said. “This impunity cannot be allowed to continue,” it stressed.