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Myanmar army accused of crimes against humanity

Number of Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh approaches 600,000

Kayleigh Long, Yangon

Kayleigh Long, Yangon

Updated: October 19, 2017 09:45 AM GMT
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Myanmar army accused of crimes against humanity

Myanmar soldiers stand guard in Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State on Sept. 27. More than 582,000 Rohingya have fled the state in terror amid the Myanmar security forces' targeted campaign of widespread and systematic murder, rape and burning, says rights-group Amnesty International. (Photo by AFP)

Myanmar's security forces stand accused of crimes against humanity, with the latest report from rights group Amnesty International documenting breaches of at least six items of the 11 detailed in the Rome Statute.

The crimes against humanity the Myanmar security forces are accused of perpetrating include murder, deportation and forcible displacement, torture, rape, persecution based on ethnic and religious grounds, and denial of lifesaving provisions.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was entered into in 2002 establishing four core international crimes; genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. A total of 124 states are signatories to the statute, but Myanmar is not, meaning it does not fall under the ICC's jurisdiction.

Amnesty described a "systematic, organized, and ruthless" campaign by the Myanmar army, which it says meted out collective punishment on the entire Rohingya population in response to the attacks by Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA) militants on Aug. 25.

Eyewitnesses to some of the gravest atrocities "consistently implicated specific units", the report said, including Myanmar army's Western Command, Border Guard Police, and civilian mobs. Over 120 people were interviewed for the report.

An account provided to Amnesty by 37-year-old Foyzullah of Chein Kar Li village exemplifies the indiscriminate nature of the military's so-called clearance operations in northern Rakhine State.

"Many people were running to the hill. Soldiers were coming from a different direction, and we came across them," said Foyzullah. "They opened fire. I saw people get hit. My elder brother's wife, [Zuleka, 70], and daughter, [Mazeda Begum, 25], were both hit by bullets."

She had taken refuge in the nearby hills, and returned in the evening once the army had left.

"It was near sunset. They were just lying in the place they got shot," she said. "I dug a hole with my brother [in the courtyard of a nearby house], and we put in both bodies. We didn't have time to bury them properly."

Amnesty International says it has also received credible information about the ongoing burning of Rohingya villages as recently as Oct. 11 in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, during a recent diplomatic briefing, claimed the military's clearance operations had ceased on Sept. 5.

On Oct. 17, a report from UNHCR stated that gunshots could be heard every night near the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Aid workers at a clinic contacted by ucanews.com confirmed treatment for victims of gunshot wounds, landmines, and burns was ongoing, with new cases having arrived in the past week.

In an Oct. 18 address at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic explained the reason behind the upsurge in the number of those fleeing to Bangladesh.

"Many say they had initially chosen to remain in their homes in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State despite repeated threats to leave or be killed," said Mahecic. "They finally fled when their villages were set on fire."

Thousands more are believed to be trapped inside Myanmar. The humanitarian response inside northern Rakhine State has been all but stopped, with the government restricting access for aid workers.

The Myanmar government has established a committee to implement the recommendations of the Rakhine Commission. The government has also called for private sector assistance in Rakhine State.

An estimated 582,000 Rohingya have fled from northern Rakhine State to Bangladesh since violence erupted in northern Rakhine State on Aug. 25. Aid agencies warn of a looming humanitarian catastrophe on both sides of the border, as Bangladesh struggles to cope with the influx and the Myanmar government continues to restrict access.

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