(New York) – Burmese security forces are committing crimes against humanity against the Rohingya population in Burma, Human Rights Watch said today. The military has committed forced deportation, murder, rape, and persecution against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, resulting in countless deaths and mass displacement.
The United Nations Security Council and concerned countries should urgently impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to stop further crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said. The Security Council should demand that Burma allow aid agencies access to people in need, permit entry to a UN fact-finding mission to investigate abuses, and ensure the safe and voluntary return of those displaced. The council should also discuss measures to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity to justice, including before the International Criminal Court.
“The Burmese military is brutally expelling the Rohingya from northern Rakhine State,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “The massacres of villagers and mass arson driving people from their homes are all crimes against humanity.”
Crimes against humanity are defined under international law as specified criminal acts “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” Burmese military attacks on the Rohingya have been widespread and systematic. Statements by Burmese military and government officials have indicated an intent to attack this population, Human Rights Watch said.
Crimes against humanity are crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague and are crimes of universal jurisdiction, meaning they may be prosecuted before national courts in countries outside of Burma, even though neither victim nor perpetrator is a national of that country.
Research by Human Rights Watch in the area supported by analysis of satellite imagery has found crimes of deportation and forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder, rape and other sexual assault, and persecution. “Persecution” is defined as “the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.” The abuses being committed also amount to ethnic cleansing, a term not defined under international law.
Since August 25, 2017, when the armed group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked about 30 police outposts in northern Rakhine State, Burmese security forces have carried out mass arson, killing, rape, and looting, destroying hundreds of villages and forcing more than 400,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Human Rights Watch has, since 2012, found that the Burmese government has committed crimes against humanity against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State.
“Attaching a legal label to the ghastly crimes being committed by the Burmese military against Rohingya families may seem inconsequential,” Ross said. “But global recognition that crimes against humanity are taking place should stir the UN and concerned governments to action against the Burmese military to bring these crimes to an end.”