Updated: August 27, 2021 07:30 AM GMT
Bangladesh's Rakhine community stages a protest rally in Dhaka in October 2020 against genocide by the Myanmar army. (Photo: AFP)
Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, accused of overseeing the mass killings of Rohingya people in Rakhine state, has added a genocide law to the country’s colonial-era Penal Code.
The new legal provision signed on Aug. 24 punishes killings and other offenses with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
The move is seen by local observers as an attempt to ease international pressure on the junta, which faces genocide charges at the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The US has pressed Myanmar to implement the ICJ’s provisional measures that require Myanmar to take steps to prevent genocide from occurring, preserve all evidence of genocide and provide regular updates on its progress on these measures.
“We recognize the Rohingya have already suffered decades of grave human rights abuses and that many of those abuses continue today,” Ned Price, the US State Department’s spokesperson, said on Aug. 25.
A junta-controlled newspaper said the new law has been added to a section of the Penal Code that criminalizes the offenses of murder, robbery and kidnapping of children.
A case of genocide against Myanmar and its leaders is also being heard in the International Criminal Court and a court in Argentina
Those suspected of committing genocidal crimes can be arrested without warrants and shall be punished with a death sentence or life in prison.
The move comes close to the fourth Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day observed on Aug. 25 marking the exodus of the ethnic Muslim minority from the Southeast Asian country following a military crackdown in 2017.
The violence against the Rohingya was unleashed under the command of military chief Min Aung Hlaing in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. More than 700,000 people were forced to flee their homes to neighboring Bangladesh where they remain in squalid camps.
A case of genocide against Myanmar and its leaders is also being heard in the International Criminal Court and a court in Argentina.
Six of Myanmar’s most senior army officers including Min Aung Hlaing have been accused of genocide by a UN fact-finding mission and recommended for criminal prosecution.
The National Unity Government, a group of ousted politicians, activists and representatives from ethnic groups in Myanmar, has called for justice and accountability while acknowledging the horrendous violence, gross human rights violations and massive displacement that Rohingya suffered four years ago.
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