An investigation by the United States government has concluded that the Myanmar military carried out a “well-planned and coordinated” campaign of mass killings, gangrapes and atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the Asian country. The results were released on Monday in a US State Department report called the “Documentation of Atrocities in Northern Rakhine State”.
The report took into account first-hand experiences of more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar District, which is one of the largest refugee camps in the world.
The report shows that the vast majority of Rohingya experienced or directly witnessed extreme violence and the destruction of their homes, and they identified the Burmese military as a perpetrator in most cases. “The recent violence in northern Rakhine State was extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorising the population and driving out the Rohingya residents,” said the report.
Most Rohingya witnessed a killing, two-thirds of them witnessed an injury, and half of them witnessed sexual violence. According to the report, the scope and scale of the military’s operations indicated they were coordinated and planned well.
The aim of the investigation was not to determine genocide but to “document the facts” on atrocities to further guide US policy, senior officials of the State Department told Reuters.
Sarah Margon, Director of the Washington office of Human Right Watch, said, “What’s missing now is a clear indication of whether the US government intends to pursue meaningful accountability and help ensure justice for so many victims.”
In August 2017, the Myanmar Army started a crackdown in Rakhine state in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on police posts and a military base. The Army’s actions were referred to as “ethnic cleansing” by the UN and the United States. More than 7 lakh Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after the crackdown. Myanmar has consistently refuted the claims, saying the international community was making false allegations.
Last week, an independent fact-finding mission of the United Nations said that Myanmar’s Army should be removed from politics as it released the final part of a report reiterating calls for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya. The country’s military occupies about a quarter of Parliament seats and has control of three ministries.
Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court announced that it has launched a preliminary examination into the deportations of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The court said it can exercise its jurisdiction over allegations of Rohingya deportations from Myanmar to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity. Although Myanmar is not a part of the court, Bangladesh is, and this gives the court the right to adjudicate since the crimes were committed in Bangladeshi territory.