Myanmar’s military leadership, including Supreme Commander Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for committing genocide against the Rohingya, urged a report published on Monday by the three-person fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. The report also names five other military officials who should be investigated and alludes to a longer list of names that remains classified.
More than 700,000 Rohingya civilians are estimated to have been expelled to Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched clearance operations starting in Aug. 2017, and thousands are estimated to have been murdered or raped by soldiers or members of Buddhist civilian mobs.
In addition to those eligible for prosecution, the authors of the report accuse Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s top civilian politician, of having “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes.”
“The State Counsellor, Daw 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, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population,” reads Paragraph 93 of the report.
“On the contrary, the civilian authorities have spread false narratives; denied the Tatmadaw’s wrongdoing; blocked independent investigations, including of the Fact-Finding Mission; and overseen destruction of evidence,” it goes on.
In Dec. 2016, after Myanmar security forces displaced more than 90,000 Rohingya from the country in a previous wave of violence, the official Facebook page of Suu Kyi’s Office of the State Counsellor posted an image describing allegations of rape committed by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya women as “FAKE RAPE”.
The fact-finding mission, established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, was blocked from entering Myanmar by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for which Suu Kyi serves as minister. Instead, the team conducted interviews with eyewitnesses and victims of alleged atrocities and consulted with researchers and diplomats in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the United Kingdom to establish “reasonable grounds” that Myanmar security forces committed genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine State, as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.
The report accuses Myanmar forces of committing four of the five prohibited acts listed in the UN genocide convention: killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part, and imposing measures intending to prevent births. It also concludes that these acts were committed with “genocidal intent” based, in part, on the admission of Supreme Commander Min Aung Hlaing on Facebook in Sept. 2017 that “the Bengali problem was a long-standing one which has become an unfinished job, despite the efforts of the previous governments to solve it. The government in office is taking great care in solving the problem.”
The other five people named in the report are:
- the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Vice Senior-General Soe Win
- the Commander, Bureau of Special Operations-3, Lieutenant-General Aung Kyaw Zaw
- the Commander, Western Regional Military Command, Major-General Maung Maung Soe
- the Commander, 33rd Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Aung Aung
- the Commander, 99th Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Than Oo
The members of the mission have called for called for the situation in Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court or for an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to be created. In the meantime, they called for an independent, impartial mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence of violations.
In a press conference in New York on Monday, mission chair and former attorney-general of Indonesia Marzuki Darusman called for the immediate resignation of Supreme Commander Min Aung Hlaing.
“Accountability can only take place both from the point of view of the international community, but also from the people of Myanmar, if the single most significant factor is addressed, and that is the role of the commander-in-chief,” Darusman said. “Minimally, and the only way forward, is to call for his resignation and stepping down immediately.”
Shortly after the report was released, Facebook announced that it had removed Min Aung Hlaing’s account from the platform, along with those of 19 other military-affiliated individuals and organizations.
The pages controlled by the offices of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials who have defended the violence against the Rohingya or obstructed investigations remain on the site.