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August 29, 2018

Rohingya genocide


August 29, 2018

In an important development for the Rohingya, a UN report has concluded that the Myanmar military committed genocide against the community in the Rakhine state. The matter is now in the hands of the UN Security Council. The big question is: what will it do? We must return to the scope of the UN report. With an estimated 25,000 people killed and 700,000 displaced, the fact-finding mission has found conclusive evidence that the actions of the Myanmar army ‘undoubtedly amounted to the gravest crimes under international law.’ The UN investigators were denied access to Myanmar – which has set up one fake commission after another. However, they were able to interview 875 witnesses who had fled Myanmar; these refugees have reported stories of indiscriminate killing, gang rapes, child assault and the burning of entire villages in the states of Rakhine, Shan and Kachin. The Burmese military carried out murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, enslavement and sexual slavery. The mission also found evidence of mass extermination and deportation. All of these constitute crimes against humanity. The list makes for horrific reading – even for those who have followed the Rohingya conflict for half a decade.

The UN report has laid out a clear argument about genocide. It states that “the crimes in Rakhine, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts.’ Its recommendations involve concrete steps to tackle the matter. The report has identified a number of individuals for prosecution, including the head of the Myanmar military, Min Aung Hlaing. It appears to be calling for genocide trials in the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome statute, which makes the opening of an investigation into the genocide in Rakhine by the ICC a tricky issue from a legal standpoint. The report was also followed by some action from Facebook, which reported 18 accounts and 52 pages associated with the Myanmar military. But this only serves to confirm how flimsy the standards of the social media giant are. The platform had been used for months to spread anti-Rohingya sentiments. The matter of social media though is a small one compared to the atrocities committed on the ground. Those responsible for the Rohingya genocide must face the consequences. The UN Security Council must now decide how to act, instead of issuing another condemnation.

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