Horrific accounts of murders, rapes, torture and indiscriminate shelling allegedly committed by the Burmese army against the Rohingya people and other minority groups have been laid out by UN investigators in an extensive new report detailing evidence for their accusation of genocide against the country’s military, The Guardian reports.
The report from the fact-finding mission, presented to the UN human rights council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, said Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, had committed “the gravest crimes under international law”.
The full 440-page report, a summary of which was released in August, includes accounts of women tied by their hair or hands to trees then raped; young children trying to flee burning houses but forced back inside; widespread use of torture with bamboo sticks, cigarettes and hot wax; and landmines placed at the escape routes from villages, killing people as they fled army crackdowns.
“I have never been confronted by crimes as horrendous and on such a scale as these,” said Marzuki Darusman, the chair of the mission.
The three-person panel said the Tatmadaw had developed a “toxic command climate” in which widespread human rights abuses had become the norm. It called for the army to be brought under civilian oversight, stripped of its quota of parliamentary seats and if necessary, totally dissolved and rebuilt.
It called for senior Burmese military leaders, including the commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, to be prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“Any engagement in any form with the Tatmadaw, its current leadership, and its businesses is indefensible,” the report said.
The panel was nearly six months into its mission in August 2017 when Rohingya militants attacked a series of Burmese police outposts with knives and small bombs, triggering army “clearance operations” that forced more than 700,000 members of the Muslim minority group into neighbouring Bangladesh.
More than 1,700 Rohingya are still crossing the border into the Cox’s Bazar district of southern Bangladesh each month, the report said.
It gave a “conservative” estimate that at least 10,000 Rohingya people had been killed in the two months after the army crackdown commenced in August last year, including at least 750 people in the village of Min Gyi, known to the Rohingya as Tula Toli.
Rape and sexual violence were a “particularly egregious and recurrent feature” of the Tatmadaw’s conduct, the report said. It cited eyewitnesses accounts of Rohingya people who claim to have seen naked women and girls running through forests “in visible distress” and villages scattered with dead bodies with “large amounts of blood … visible between their legs”.
Satellite imagery included in the report showed nearly 400 “whole villages literally wiped off the map”, investigators said.
They noted a buildup of armed forces in Rakhine state in the months leading up to the clearance operations and a sharpening of anti-Rohingya rhetoric, including by civilian leaders. “The human rights catastrophe of 2017 was planned, foreseeable and inevitable,” the report said.
It sharply criticised the UN presence in Myanmar, finding that top officials were loth to pursue a human rights agenda, preferring a “business as usual” approach that prioritised development goals and maintaining access for humanitarian groups.
Some of those who tried to push human rights issues told investigators they were “ignored, criticised, side-lined or blocked in these efforts”, the report said.
Facebook was also singled out by investigators for the ease with which its open platform allowed hate speech and misinformation to spread.
Members of the panel attempted to report a post in which a human rights activist was accused of cooperating with the fact-finding mission and labelled a “national traitor”. One comment under the post read: “If this animal is still around, find him and kill him.”
The panel was told the post did not contravene Facebook guidelines and it was only removed several weeks later with the support of a contact at the social media giant.
Bangladesh and Myanmar have both agreed in principle that the Rohingya refugees sheltering in Cox’s Bazar should return, but the report said repatriation in the current circumstances was out of the question.
“The security forces who perpetrated gross human rights violations, with impunity, would be responsible for ensuring the security of returnees,” it said. “Repatriation in such condition is inconceivable.”
Myanmar said a summary of the report released in August was part of a campaign of “false allegations” against it by the international community. It will have an opportunity to respond to the full report in the UNHRC on Tuesday.