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The UN Says Top Myanmar Military Leaders Should Be Prosecuted For Genocide

Horrific atrocities carried out by soldiers were part of a "widespread and systematic attack" on Rohingya Muslims, a fact-finding mission concluded.

Last updated on August 27, 2018, at 9:45 a.m. ET

Posted on August 27, 2018, at 7:32 a.m. ET

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing
Ye Aung Thu / AFP / Getty Images

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing

The United Nations has said a string of high-profile Burmese military figures, including the head of the armed forces, should be prosecuted for genocide over the "shocking" persecution of Rohingya Muslims.

Soldiers murdered, tortured, raped, and enslaved members of the long-persecuted minority as part of a "widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population," a report by the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar found.

It details horrific crimes against humanity that have forced more than 720,000 Rohingya people from their homes in Rakhine State since a fresh wave of violence began last year, as well as atrocities in the northern Kachin State and the eastern Shan State.

"The crimes in Rakhine State, 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," the report reads.

After the report's publication, Facebook banned a string of Burmese officials and organizations, including the head of Myanmar's armed forces, in an effort to stop "the spread of hate and misinformation." The report says that Facebook's response to the problem has been "slow and ineffective," and calls for an independent investigation into the social network.

Six senior officials in the Tatmadaw, the name of the country's armed forces, including Commander-in-Chief and Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, have been singled out for investigation and prosecution.

"The Mission concluded, given these considerations on the inference of genocidal intent, that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State."

OHCHR

The systematic oppression and discrimination of the Rohingya, which has left thousands living in dire conditions in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, could amount to the crime of apartheid, it said.

Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to bring democracy to the Buddhist-dominated country, has been heavily criticised over the crisis.

The UN report claimed that rather than trying to prevent the crimes, the civilian authorities contributed to the commission of the atrocities.

"The State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population," it read.

Rohingya refugees perform prayers at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on Aug. 25.
Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP / Getty Images

Rohingya refugees perform prayers at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on Aug. 25.

"On the contrary, the civilian authorities have spread false narratives; denied the Tatmadaw’s wrongdoing; blocked independent investigations, including of the Fact-Finding Mission; and overseen destruction of evidence.

"Through their acts and omissions, the civilian authorities have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes."

The fact-finding mission will make a final presentation on its conclusions to the Human Rights Council in September.

The minister for Asia in the UK, where Aung San Suu Kyi studied at the University of Oxford in the 1960s, said that the foreign office will "discuss options for bringing the report before the Security Council" after the presentation.

“It is now essential the Burmese government sets out how its Commission of Inquiry will be able to investigate these crimes with full impartiality and how it will be linked to a judicial process to hold those responsible to account,” the minister, Mark Field, said in a statement.

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