MYANMAR’S commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and several other senior military officers must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes over their responsibility for violence in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, a United Nations independent fact-finding mission said yesterday.
The mission called for the situation in Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or for an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to be launched. In the interim, it called for an independent, impartial mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations. It also recommended targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible.
Now that the UN Security Council has been clearly apprised of the horrors, there is no reason to delay referral of the situation in Myanmar to the ICC and bring those responsible to justice, Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk said.
“The ICC was created precisely to deal with crimes against humanity like those committed in Myanmar. Myanmar is neither a party to the ICC nor has it accepted the court’s jurisdiction. The UN Security Council needs to refer the situation to the court,” Sunai told The Nation.
Kobsak Chutikul, a former member of the advisory board for the implementation of recommendations to Rakhine state, said many committees and task forces had been set up to address the issue. “It’s time for the UN Security Council to establish an ad-hoc legal mechanism to ensure accountability, as called for in the fact-finding report,” he said.
Kobsak stepped down from the panel chaired by Thai former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai shortly before the submission of the final report. He said his action was to send a cautionary message to Nay Pyi Taw that it needed to seriously address the Rakhine crisis ahead of action by the international community. “The gloves are off, and the relationship between international community and the Myanmar government will become more confrontational,” he said.
Meanwhile, Facebook banned Min Aung Hlaing and removed pages tied to the country’s military yesterday after a UN probe called for him to be prosecuted for genocide. “We are banning 20 Burmese individuals and organisations from Facebook – including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing,” Facebook said in a statement on its site, adding that it wants to prevent them from using the platform to “further inflame ethnic and religious tensions”, according to AFP.
Established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, the mission found patterns of gross human-rights violations and abuses committed that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”, principally by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military).
Dating back to 2012 when communal conflict erupted in the country, the UN blamed the Tatmadaw for its intention to systematically eject ethnic groups from the state. The exodus of Rohingya from Rakhine took place after the Tatmadaw’s clearance operation in August last year, resulting in thousands being killed and more than 700,000 fleeing to Bangladesh.
Conflicts between Myanmar authorities and other ethnic groups in Kachin and Shan states at around the same time were mentioned in the report. The crimes against humanity committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine included murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and enslavement, it said.
Five other military commanders were also named in the report – deputy commander-in-chief Vice Senior-General Soe Win; commander of the Bureau of Special Operations-3 Lt-General Aung Kyaw Zaw; commander of the Western Regional Military Command, Maj-General Maung Maung Soe; commander of the 33rd Light Infantry Division, Brig-General Aung Aung; and commander of the 99th Light Infantry Division, Brig-General Than Oo.
The report notes that civilian authorities had little scope to control the actions of the Tatmadaw. It also finds that “through their acts and omissions, the civilian authorities have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes”.
“The State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, has not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine state,” the report states.