U.N. Secretary General to brief Security Council today, 88 organizations call for arms embargo, sanctions on Myanmar

(NEW YORK and BANGKOK, September 28, 2017)—The United Nations Security Council and U.N. member states should act urgently to impose an arms embargo on the Myanmar military and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for atrocity crimes against Rohingya Muslims and others in Rakhine State, Fortify Rights said today. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres will today publicly brief the U.N. Security Council on the human rights situation in Rakhine State.

“No more excuses, the international community must act now,” said Kate Vigneswaran, Legal Director at Fortify Rights. “Condemnations from the international community are important, but concrete action is urgently needed to end and remedy atrocities against Rohingya and others.” 

Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and 85 other civil society organizations from around the world called today for U.N. Security Council action as well as a U.N. General Assembly Resolution to demand an immediate end to crimes against humanity against Rohingya. The organizations call on the Government of Myanmar to provide humanitarian aid agencies with “immediate and unhindered access to populations in need,” and for the authorities to provide unfettered access to a U.N. Fact-Finding Mission established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March. The organizations also urged “member states and the Security Council to explore possible avenues to bring perpetrators of crimes under international law to justice.”

Fortify Rights has documented killings, rape and gang-rape, mass graves, and other crimes, including the razing of entire villages, by state security forces against Rohingya civilians during two waves of Myanmar Army-led “clearance operations” beginning in October 2016 and continuing in August and September 2017. These attacks are ongoing and have forcibly displaced more than half a million Rohingya since the October violence.

“These are crimes against humanity, and they are being committed with complete impunity,” said Kate Vigneswaran. “The Security Council needs to act to ensure the attacks stop and the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines “crimes against humanity” as an act “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”

Fortify Rights has collected a significant body of evidence in Rakhine State and on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border since October 2016 indicating that soldiers and police intentionally carried out prohibited acts within the context of a widespread and systematic attack against Rohingya with knowledge of the broader context into which these crimes were perpetrated and in full awareness that their actions contributed to the attack. This evidence indicates that Myanmar Army soldiers and members of the Myanmar Police Force committed crimes against humanity.

The Myanmar Army-led attacks against Rohingya were in response to attacks on state security forces by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), known locally as al-Yaqin. On October 9, 2016, ARSA killed nine police officers during a surprise attack on three police outposts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships. On August 25, 2017, ARSA killed another 12 state security officials in attacks on 30 police outposts and an army base in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships.

Fortify Rights also documented killings of Rohingya civilians by ARSA and called on the Myanmar government to hold perpetrators accountable.

In recent days, the Myanmar government announced the discovery of 45 “Hindus” in a mass grave near Kha Maung Seik village in northern Maungdaw Township, alleging ARSA killed them on August 25. The government continues to deny the U.N. Fact Finding Mission access to Rakhine State.

The U.N. Fact Finding Mission should be given immediate and unfettered access to Rakhine State and other parts of the country, including Kachin and Shan states, to urgently investigate atrocity crimes, Fortify Rights said.

“We’ve already seen what ongoing impunity for international crimes has done for Myanmar,” said Kate Vigneswaran. “It’s been destructive for the country and for the region and can’t continue to be an option for the international community.”

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