Vastavam web: Investigators working for the UN’s top human rights body said today that top Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for genocide against Rohingya Muslims. The call, accompanying a first report by the investigators, amounts to some of the strongest language yet from UN officials who have denounced alleged human rights violations in Myanmar since a bloody crackdown began last August.
The three-member “fact-finding mission” working under a mandate from the UN-backed Human Rights Council meticulously assembled hundreds of accounts by expatriate Rohingya, satellite footage and other information to assemble the report. Through hundreds of interviews with expatriate Rohingya and use of satellite footage, the team compiled accounts of crimes including gang rape, the torching of hundreds of villages, enslavement, and killings of children some before their eyes of their own parents.
The team was not granted access to Myanmar and has decried a lack of cooperation or even response from the government, which received an early copy of the report. The team cited a “conservative” estimate that some 10,000 people were killed in the violence, but outside investigators have had no access to the affected regions making a precise accounting elusive, if not impossible. UN officials and human rights watchers have for months pointed to evidence of genocide in Myanmar, and the United States late last year said that “ethnic cleansing” was occurring in Myanmar. But few experts have studied the issue as in-depth and in such an official way as the fact-finding team, with a mandate from a body that has Myanmar’s approval: The country is among the 47 members of the Human Rights Council.
The United Nations does not apply the word “genocide” lightly. The fact-finding team’s assessment suggests the crimes against the Rohingya could meet the strict legal definition which was last met over crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda nearly a quarter-century ago. Human rights watchers say determining “genocidal intent” is perhaps the most difficult criteria to meet: In essence, it’s the task of assessing the mindsets of perpetrators to determine if ethnicity, race, religion or another attribute had motivated them. Adding into their assessment: The extreme brutality of the crimes; “hate rhetoric” and specific speech by perpetrators and military commanders; policies of exclusion against Rohingya people; an “oppressive context;” and the “level of organization indicating a plan for destruction.”
The investigators cited six Myanmar military leaders by name as “priority subjects” for possible prosecution, led by the commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing. A longer list of names is to be kept in the office of the UN human rights chief for possible use in future judicial proceedings. The United States and European Union have already slapped sanctions on some Myanmar military leaders, though Min Aung Hlaing is not among them.