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'Genocidal intent' behind sexual violence against Rohingya

UN report cites 'widespread and systematic killing of women and girls' among horrific crimes against stateless group

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'Genocidal intent' behind sexual violence against Rohingya

Rohingya midwives attend a meeting on gender-based violence with the United Nations Population Fund at a refugee camp in Bangladesh in May 2018. A U.N. report says crimes perpetrated by the Tatmadaw reflect genocidal intent. (Photo by Munir Uz Zaman/AFP)

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The sexual violence carried out by Myanmar’s military against Rohingya women and girls indicates a genocidal intent, according to a United Nations report released on Aug. 22. 

The U.N. Fact-Finding Mission said that soldiers routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape plus other violence and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people in blatant violation of international human rights law.

The report said Myanmar’s military demonstrated its genocidal intent toward the Rohingya population “through the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injuries to their reproductive organs, and the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breasts and thighs.”

It said that the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls began on Aug. 25, 2017 and was a sixth factor that indicated the Tatmadaw’s genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya.

The report said that the only conclusion to be drawn from the accounts of sexual violence perpetrated by the military was that it was “part of a deliberate, well-planned strategy to intimate, terrorize and punish a civilian population.”

Tatmadaw 'must be held to account'

Marzuki Darusman, chair of the Mission, said: “The international community must hold the Myanmar military to account for the tremendous pain and suffering it has inflicted on persons of all genders across the country.”

It called for the Myanmar government, the Security Council and the international community “to make accountability for these grave crimes an urgent priority.”

The Mission, set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017, conducted interviews with hundreds of survivors and witnesses of sexual violence in Kachin and Shan states in the north, and in Rakhine State in the west, where the military brutal crackdown expelled more than 700,000 Rohingya and forced them to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.

The U.N. mission, which has not been granted access to Myanmar, traveled to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, and met with aid groups, academics and think-tanks.

It will present its final report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in September.

Myanmar’s government and military leaders have yet to respond to the report.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the bulldozing of Rohingya homes to destroy evidence after the ethnic cleansing was emblematic of the government’s campaign to whitewash its crimes.

“Myanmar’s rampant atrocities and the failure over two years to address them has been made even worse by the Security Council’s apathy,” Robertson said.

Amnesty International said the Security Council should urgently refer the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court and impose a comprehensive arms embargo.

“This grim anniversary is a stark reminder of the failure of the U.N. Security Council to stand with the survivors and bring the perpetrators of mass atrocity to justice,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia.

Aug. 25 is the second anniversary of Myanmar’s military crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine, described by the United Nations as amounting to crimes against humanity and likely genocide.

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