UN atrocities probe seeks action against Myanmar

Sufficient evidence of Rohingya persecution to put military chiefs before International Criminal Court
UN atrocities probe seeks action against Myanmar

A Rohingya girl inside her tent at Kutapalong refugee camp in Bangladesh in August. The UN wants to prosecute senior Myanmar military figures for atrocities against the minority. (Photo by Chandan Khanna/AFP)

United Nations investigators have called for Buddhist-majority Myanmar to be held accountable for atrocities against minority Rohingya Muslims by the world body's Security Council.

Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on Myanmar, specifically targeted members of the Southeast Asian nation's military for attacks spurring a mass exodus of refugees.

"There can be no moving on from this crisis without addressing its root causes, all of which still exist today — primarily the presence of an unaccountable military that acts with complete impunity," Darusman told the Security Council when briefing its members on Oct. 24.

Not only Rohingya and many others in Myanmar but the "entire world" wanted action to be taken against those involved in abuses.

The 444-page fact-finding mission report released on Sept. 18 found that the military committed four of five acts constituting genocide.

The U.N. probe had found enough evidence to warrant the prosecution of senior military figures for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Darusman said.

The report details clearance operations of Myanmar's military in six villages that involved massacres including the killing of women, children and the elderly, as well as gang rapes, arson and looting.

It had verified similar operations in 54 separate locations across northern Rakhine State, the center of violence against Rohingyas.

At least 392 villages were partially or wholly destroyed and more than 725,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh since violence intensified last year.

An estimate of 10,000 Rohingya deaths was described in the report as a conservative figure.

Unless impunity was addressed, violence and atrocities would continue to occur, Darusman warned.

He called on the UN Security Council to refer cases to the International Criminal Court or create an ad hoc international criminal tribunal as "accountability for those crimes is unattainable domestically in Myanmar."

Darusman's Security Council briefing was approved to proceed by nine votes in favor and three against with three abstentions.

China, Myanmar's neighbor and ally, as well as Russia, both opposed the Security Council briefing taking place.

Hau Do Suan, Myanmar's representative to the U.N., said the report was "flawed, biased and politically motivated from its genesis" and had only briefly mentioned atrocities committed by Muslim militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army against Myanmar security personnel.

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"Myanmar will never accept any calls to refer it to the International Criminal Court as the situation in Rakhine in no way threatens international peace and security," he said.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N.'s expert on human rights in Myanmar, said she was dismayed by persistent denials and attempts to deflect attention from allegations of atrocities against Rohingya.

"What I see is a government that is increasingly demonstrating that it has no real interest and capacity in establishing a fully functioning democracy where all its people equally enjoy all their rights and freedoms," Lee told the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Oct. 23.

She said that Myanmar was not doing what is necessary to bring about true peace and reconciliation. "It is not upholding justice and the rule of law," she added.

Lee said the international community must continue to work to ensure that individuals alleged to be responsible for serious crimes are prosecuted by the ICC or by another credible judicial body.

"The Security Council must come together and refer the situation of Myanmar to the ICC without any delay," she added.

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