Following a United Nations Human Rights Council fact-finding mission on Myanmar, a damning U.N. report published Monday concludes that the nation's military leaders, including its top commander, should be further investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims in the wake of a violent crackdown last August that forced more than half a million refugees to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
"The international community, through the United Nations, should use all diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to assist Myanmar in meeting its responsibility to protect its people from genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes."
—U.N. report"The gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine, and Shan states," which "stem from deep fractures in society and structural problems that have been apparent and unaddressed for decades," the report asserts, "undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law."
The report (pdf) comes from a yearlong investigation conducted by a three-member panel, which relied on 875 in-depth interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, satellite images, and verified documents, photographs, and videos. It documents crimes including murder, enforced disappearance, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, and sexual slavery.
While the report determines that six leaders of the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw—most notably Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing—bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, it also charges that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "has not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine State."
"Refer #Myanmar to the ICC... Considering that accountability is currently unattainable domestically in Myanmar, impetus must come from int'l community"- Marzuki Darusman, Chairperson, Independent Int'l Fact-finding Mission. FULL report: https://t.co/Nom8PssF2I via @UNHumanRights pic.twitter.com/KRM8k3acNV
— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) August 27, 2018
Among the report's key recommendations, it declares, "The international community, through the United Nations, should use all diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to assist Myanmar in meeting its responsibility to protect its people from genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes."
It also urges the U.N. Security Council to "ensure accountability for crimes under international law committed in Myanmar, preferably by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court or alternatively by creating an ad hoc international criminal tribunal," as well as to "adopt targeted individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against those who appear most responsible for serious crimes under international law" and to "impose an arms embargo on Myanmar."
Human rights advocates responded to the findings, which bolster previous reports from U.N. officials and international news agencies, with immediate calls for actions.
"The international community has the responsibility to act to ensure justice and accountability. Failing to do so sends a dangerous message that Myanmar's military will not only enjoy impunity but is free to commit such atrocities again."
—Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that the "powerful report and clear recommendations demonstrate the obvious need for concrete steps to advance criminal justice for atrocious crimes, instead of more hollow condemnations and expressions of concern," especially considering that "so far, condemnations without action by U.N. member states have only emboldened a culture of violence and oppression in Myanmar."
Tirana Hassan, director of crisis response at Amnesty International, said the report makes "clear that the Myanmar authorities are incapable of bringing to justice those responsible," which means that "the international community has the responsibility to act to ensure justice and accountability. Failing to do so sends a dangerous message that Myanmar's military will not only enjoy impunity but is free to commit such atrocities again."
The report will "have a big impact internationally, coming from the main U.N.-mandated body investigating the violence against the Rohingya, and also covering armed conflict in Shan, and Kachin states," Richard Horsey, a former U.N. diplomat in Myanmar and longtime Yangon-based analyst, told the Washington Post. "Its specific finding that there is sufficient grounds for investigation and prosecution of military commanders for genocide is likely to have particularly serious diplomatic, not only legal, consequences."
After the report's release, Facebook—according to a company blog post—removed "18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account, and 52 Facebook Pages, followed by almost 12 million people," specifically banning 20 individuals and organizations, including the commander-in-chief and the military's Myawady television network, "to prevent the spread of hate and misinformation." Reuters noted that the "action means an essential blackout of the military's main channel of public communication."