Burmese military leaders should be prosecuted for genocide against Rohingya Muslims, investigators working for the UN’s top human rights body have said.
They took the unusual step of identifying six by name among those behind what they called deadly, systematic crimes against the ethnic minority.
The call, accompanying a first report by the team of investigators, amounts to some of the strongest language yet from UN officials who have denounced alleged human rights violations in Burma since a bloody crackdown began last August.
The three-member “fact-finding mission” and their team, working under a mandate from the UN-backed Human Rights Council, meticulously assembled hundreds of accounts from expatriate Rohingya, as well as satellite footage and other information to assemble the report.
"In all my life, I've not known even five minutes of peace."
Four generations of a Rohingya refugee family describe a lifetime of injustices – and their hopes of returning to Myanmar.pic.twitter.com/GCDEUgbl3e
— United Nations (@UN) July 27, 2018
“The military’s contempt for human life, dignity and freedom – for international law in general – should be a cause of concern for the entire population of Myanmar, and to the international community as a whole,” said fact-finding mission chair Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney-general, at a news conference.
The council created the mission in March last year nearly six months before a string of deadly rebel attacks on security and police posts set off a crackdown that drove Rohingya to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.
The UN estimates that more than 700,000 have fled.
The team compiled accounts of crimes including gang rape, the torching of hundreds of villages, enslavement, and killings of children some before the eyes of their own parents.
The team was not granted access to Burma and has decried a lack of co-operation or even response from the government, which received an early copy of the report.
The team cited a “conservative” estimate from aid group Reporters Without Borders that some 10,000 people were killed in the violence, but outside investigators have had no access to the affected regions – making a precise accounting elusive, if not impossible.
Above all, the investigators said the situation in Burma should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and if not, to a special tribunal.
Last week, Burma’s government rejected any co-operation with the ICC, to which it is not a party.
China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto power over whether the issue will be brought before the ICC, has been reticent about condemning Burma’s government during the crisis.