Myanmar panel finds war crimes committed in Rakhine but no genocidal intent
Nyan Lynn Aung Th Myanmar Times Mon, January 20, 2020
Senior Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo hands over the panel report to State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: Press pool photo
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar – An international panel set up by the government to probe accusations of human rights abuses in northern Rakhine State said Monday it found that war crimes had been committed but there was no indication of genocidal intent.
The Independent Commission of Enquiry presented its findings to President U Win Myint earlier in the day.
“On the basis of the information available to it and of the investigations carried out in northern Rakhine State and elsewhere, that war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law took place during the security operations between 25 August and 5 September 2017,” the panel said in a press statement.
The massive security operations between August 25 and September 5, 2017, was triggered by simultaneous attacks launched by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) fighters in several government outposts on August 25.
“The…findings reveal no indication of a pattern of conduct from which one could reasonably conclude that the acts were committed with ‘genocidal intent’,” it added.
The report generated varied reactions.
U Toe Oung, advisory of The Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD), described the findings as fair.
“The report showed what Myanmar government to be fair and judicious,” he said.
Khine Pyi Soe, Secretary of Arakan National Party, said the mention of war crimes committed by government troops in Rakhine has been one of the plus factors of the findings.
“As far as I know previous commissions or committees on Rakhine state have been timid in talking about human rights violations and war crimes,” he said, calling on the Tatmadaw (military) to take action against troops found to have committed atrocities in Rakhine.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the report was an attempt to influence the forthcoming International Court of Justice’s verdict on provisional measures to end the alleged genocide in the country.
“Myanmar should immediately release the full ICOE report in both Burmese and English so the global community can read for itself how the commission did its work, what it found, and how it reached its conclusions,” he said.
“While final judgment must be reserved until the full report is released, the findings revealed in the ICOE’s press release are so far what we expected from a non-transparent investigation by a politically skewed set of commissioners who are too close to the Myanmar government,” he added.
It added the panel’s investigating team were dispatched to Rakhine, Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw to gather evidence and interviewed about 1,500 witnesses from various communities in northern Rakhine State, including Muslims, Rakhine, Mro and Daingnet ethnic groups, and military and police personnel.
The panel said their findings showed that serious crimes and violations committed in northern Rakhine during the nearly two-week military operation were committed by multiple actors, including government forces.
“The killing of innocent villagers and destruction of their homes were committed by some members of the Myanmar’s security forces through disproportionate use of force during the internal armed conflict,” the statement said.
The panel said the report it submitted contained 461 pages, including 31 annexes.
It added the annexes were over a dozen case files, which could provide as basis for further investigations by relevant Myanmar authorities.
“The Myanmar Government and Myanmar’s Defence Services must continue their respective investigations, taking into account the…findings,” it said.
The commission, established by the Myanmar government in July 2018, was tasked with investigating allegations of human rights violations committed during a Tatmadaw (military) offensive against the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine in August 2017.
Senior Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo, who heads the panel, met with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi after the report was submitted to the president.
Other members of the panel were Japanese diplomat Kenzo Oshima, former chair of Myanmar Constitutional Tribunal U Mya Thein, and former senior UNICEF official Aung Tun Thet. – with additional reporting from Myat Thura