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Myanmar: Crimes Against Humanity Terrorize and Drive Rohingya Out

WASHINGTON - More than 530,000 Rohingya men, women and children have fled northern Rakhine State in terror in a matter of weeks amid the Myanmar security forces’ targeted campaign of widespread and systematic murder, rape and burning, Amnesty International said today in its most detailed analysis yet of the ongoing crisis.

‘My World Is Finished’: Rohingya Targeted in Crimes against Humanity in Myanmar describes how Myanmar’s security forces are carrying out a systematic, organized and ruthless campaign of violence against the Rohingya population as a whole in northern Rakhine State, after a Rohingya armed group attacked around 30 security posts on 25 August.

Dozens of eyewitnesses to the worst violence consistently implicated specific units, including the Myanmar Army’s Western Command, the 33rd Light Infantry Division, and the Border Guard Police.

“In this orchestrated campaign, Myanmar’s security forces have brutally meted out revenge on the entire Rohingya population of northern Rakhine State, in an apparent attempt to permanently drive them out of the country. These atrocities continue to fuel the region’s worst refugee crisis in decades,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.

“Exposing these heinous crimes is the first step on the long road to justice. Those responsible must be held to account; Myanmar’s military can’t simply sweep serious violations under the carpet by announcing another sham internal investigation. The Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, must take immediate action to stop his troops from committing atrocities.”

Crimes against humanity

Witness accounts, satellite imagery and data, and photo and video evidence gathered by Amnesty International all point to the same conclusion: hundreds of thousands of Rohingya women, men, and children have been the victims of a widespread and systematic attack, amounting to crimes against humanity.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists 11 types of acts which, when knowingly committed during such an attack, constitute crimes against humanity. Amnesty International has consistently documented at least six of these amid the current wave of violence in northern Rakhine State: murder, deportation and forcible displacement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts such as denying food and other life-saving provisions.

This conclusion is based on testimonies from more than 120 Rohingya men and women who have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, as well as 30 interviews with medical professionals, aid workers, journalists and Bangladeshi officials.

Amnesty International’s experts corroborated many witness accounts of the Myanmar security forces’ crimes by analysing satellite imagery and data, as well as verifying photographs and video footage taken inside Rakhine State. The organization has also requested access to Rakhine State to investigate abuses on the ground, including by members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the Rohingya armed group. Amnesty International continues to call for unfettered access to the UN Fact-Finding Mission and other independent observers.

Murder and massacres

In the hours and days following the ARSA attacks on 25 August, the Myanmar security forces, sometimes joined by local vigilantes, surrounded Rohingya villages throughout the northern part of Rakhine State. As Rohingya women, men, and children fled their homes, the soldiers and police officers often opened fire, killing or seriously injuring at least hundreds of people.

Survivors described running to nearby hills and rice fields, where they hid until the forces left. The elderly and people with disabilities were often unable to flee, and burned to death in their homes after the military set them alight.

This pattern was replicated in dozens of villages across Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships. But the security forces, and in particular the Myanmar military, appear to have unleashed their most lethal response in specific villages near where ARSA carried out its attacks.

Amnesty International documented events in five such villages where at least a dozen people were killed: Chein Kar Li, Koe Tan Kauk, and Chut Pyin, all in Rathedaung Township; and Inn Din and Min Gyi, in Maungdaw Township. In Chut Pyin and Min Gyi, the death toll was particularly high, with at least scores of Rohingya women, men, and children killed by Myanmar security forces.

Amnesty International interviewed 17 survivors of the massacre in Chut Pyin, six of whom had gunshot wounds. Almost all had lost at least one family member, with some losing many. They consistently described the Myanmar military, joined by Border Guard Police and local vigilantes, surrounding Chut Pyin, opening fire on those fleeing, and then systematically burning Rohingya houses and buildings.

Fatima, 12, told Amnesty International that she was at home with her parents, eight siblings, and grandmother when they saw fire rising from another part of their village. As the family ran out of their house, she said men in uniform opened fire on them from behind. She saw both her father and 10-year-old sister get shot, then Fatima was also hit in the back of her right leg, just above the knee.

“I fell down, but my neighbour grabbed me and carried me,” she recalled. After a week on the run, she finally received treatment in Bangladesh. Her mother and older brother were also killed in Chut Pyin.