A Myanmar government-appointed panel on Monday established that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that members of the security forces were among “multiple actors” who committed possible war crimes against the Rohingya Muslim community, but said the military was not guilty of genocide, AFP reported.
Myanmar’s security forces are accused of killings, gangrape and arson during a crackdown that drove more than 730,000 people to flee the Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh after some Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in August 2017.
The Independent Commission of Enquiry announced its findings in a statement posted on Facebook, days ahead of an expected ruling by the International Court of Justice on a genocide case against the country on Thursday.
The panel conceded some security personnel had used disproportionate force and committed war crimes and serious human rights violations, including the “killing of innocent villagers and destruction of their homes”. It blamed Rohingya militants for attacking 30 police posts and “provoking” the crackdown and described the situation as an “internal armed conflict”.
“The ICOE has not found any evidence suggesting that these killings or acts of displacement were committed pursuant to an intent or plan to destroy the Muslim or any other community in northern Rakhine state,” the panel’s statement read. “There is insufficient evidence to argue, much less conclude, that the crimes committed were undertaken with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, or with any other requisite mental state for the international crime of genocide.”
Myanmar President Win Myint said he “concurred” with the findings of the commission and vowed to pursue further investigations.
Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK called the findings as a “blatant PR exercise” to deflect attention from the International Court of Justice’s ruling. “Myanmar’s deeply flawed investigation into human rights abuses in Rakhine state is another attempt to whitewash the Tatmadaw’s brutal violence against the Rohingya,” spokesperson Tun Khin said. Tatmadaw is the official name for Myanmar’s armed forces.
Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch called for immediate release of the full report, adding that the commission seemed to make scapegoats of individual soldiers rather than place responsibility on the military command. “The entire ICOE investigation, including its methodology and operations, has been far from transparent,” he added.
The commission was led by senior Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo, and included retired Japanese diplomat Kenzo Oshima, Myanmar Presidential Adviser Aung Tun Thet and legal expert Mya Theinn.
Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month went to The Hague to argue that her country was capable of investigating any allegations of abuse. Gambia had in November filed a case against Myanmar at the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, accusing it of committing genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Gambia asked the international court to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately”.