An international law firm hired by the US State Department to investigate last year’s military crackdown on the Rohingya in Myanmar says it has found evidence of genocide, urging the international community to establish a criminal investigation into the atrocities and ensure justice for the victims.
The Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG) says that its findings, based on interviews with more than 1,000 Muslim Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh as a result of the crackdown in Rakhine state, also found reasonable grounds to conclude that the army committed crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“It is clear from our intense legal review that there is, in fact, a legal basis to conclude that the Rohingya were the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” the PILPG’s Paul Williams told a press conference in Washington, DC.
“As such, we believe there is sufficient basis to bring international criminal proceedings against the perpetrators of the violence and recommend that the international community pursue legal accountability for the atrocity crimes committed in Rakhine state against the Rohingya.”
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled the Myanmar army’s crackdown, and human rights groups say thousands died.
The lawyers’ report documented more than 13,000 instances of “grave human rights violations” in the crackdown.
“The Rohingya who did make it to Bangladesh left behind a place of terror, violence, and destruction,” the report said. “Yet, despite the horrors they faced there, it is a place that the Rohingya refugees still unfailingly call their ‘homeland’.”
Of the 1,024 Rohingya interviewed in the PILPG report, 20 percent told investigators that they had been physically wounded in the attacks. Nearly 70 percent said they had watched their homes or villages being destroyed, while 80 percent witnessed the killing of a family member, friend or personal acquaintance.
The Myanmar armed forces, led by the army who often worked in cooperation with other security forces, only targetted Rohingya civilians in the attacks, the law firm said.
The military’s actions were “highly-coordinated” and required both tactical and logistical planning.
Attacks by ARSA were simply a “convenient justification” for the crackdown in Rakhine, it said.
“The scale and severity of the attacks and abuses – particularly the mass killings and accompanying brutality against children, women, pregnant women, the elderly, religious leaders, and persons fleeing into Bangladesh – suggest that, in the minds of the perpetrators, the goal was not just to expel, but also to exterminate the Rohingya,” the report said.
In November 2017, the United States called Myanmar’s campaign against the Rohingya “ethnic cleansing”,