International cooperation needed to halt killing and seek justice
(WASHINGTON D.C. and COX’S BAZAR, November 15, 2017)—There is “mounting evidence” of genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, according to a new report published today by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Fortify Rights. The government of Myanmar has a responsibility to halt atrocities being perpetrated by Myanmar security forces, civilian perpetrators, and militants and hold perpetrators accountable. The international community should develop and implement a shared strategy to ensure the cessation of atrocities and advance accountability.
“The Rohingya have suffered attacks and systematic violations for decades, and the international community must not fail them now when their very existence in Myanmar is threatened” said Cameron Hudson, Director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Without urgent action, there’s a high risk of more mass atrocities.”
“They Tried to Kill Us All”: Atrocity Crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar is based on one year of research conducted by Fortify Rights and the United States Holocaust Museum in Myanmar and Bangladesh. More than 200 in-depth, in-person interviews—documented primarily by Fortify Rights in Myanmar and on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border—with Rohingya survivors and eyewitnesses of atrocity crimes, as well as international aid workers, informed the report.
It documents widespread and systematic attacks on Rohingya civilians from October 9 – December 2016 and from August 25, 2017 to the present day committed by Myanmar Army soldiers, police, and civilians.
The report reveals how Myanmar state security forces and civilian perpetrators committed mass killings in dozens of villages in Maungdaw Township in the first wave of violence in 2016 and in villages throughout all three townships of northern Rakhine State since August 25, 2017. Myanmar Army soldiers and civilian perpetrators slit throats; burned victims alive, including infants and children; beat civilians to death; raped and gang raped women and children. State security forces opened fire on men, women, and children at close range and at a distance and from land and helicopters, killing untold numbers. Survivors from some villages described how perpetrators slashed women’s breasts, hacked bodies to pieces, and beheaded victims, including children.
“These crimes thrive on impunity and inaction,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “Condemnations aren’t enough. Without urgent international action towards accountability, more mass killings are likely.”
More than half of Myanmar’s one million Rohinyga have fled the country in the past nine weeks and over 700,000 Rohingya are now living as refugees in Bangladesh. Thousands are still arriving in Bangladesh weekly. Since 2012, the Government of Myanmar has confined more than 120,000 Rohingya to more than 35 internment camps throughout Rakhine State.
The Myanmar Army-led assault on Rohingya civilians comes in response to attacks by the Rohingya militant group, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on three police outposts on October 9, 2016 that left nine dead and another attack on 30 police outposts and one army base on August 25, 2017 that left at least 12 dead. Members of ARSA are also responsible for human rights violations.
The government of Myanmar has enforced strict restrictions on Rohingya freedom of movement, marriage, childbirth, and other aspects of daily life for decades. The authorities deny Rohingya Myanmar citizenship by law and deny their ethnic identity, claiming they are interlopers from Bangladesh and casting them as an existential threat to Buddhist culture. The government continues to deny the delivery of essential humanitarian aid, including food and nutrition, to affected areas of northern Rakhine State.
“These crimes won’t end on their own,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Fortify Rights. “People of conscience in Myanmar need to do everything possible to end the abuses and culture of impunity in the country.”
Along with recommendations for the Government of Myanmar, the report details options for the international community, such as: enacting targeted sanctions on the individuals responsible for crimes in Rakhine State, instituting an arms embargo on Myanmar, and referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, which was established to investigate, try, and prosecute those responsible for atrocity crimes when the State is unwilling or unable to do so.