“I was lucky, I was only raped by three men,” one survivor of the violence told investigators.
A United Nations report recommended Monday that Myanmar’s top generals be investigated for genocide at the International Criminal Court for their role in the violence perpetrated against the Rohingya.
“There is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State,” said the report, by a UN fact-finding mission, using the Burmese name for the country’s military. It recommended that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief of Myanmar’s military, as well as five other generals be investigated and prosecuted for genocide against the Muslim minority group.
The UN report is a damning indictment of Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya, who have been rendered effectively stateless because of the country’s citizenship law. Myanmarese authorities consider the Rohingya Bangladeshis, and refer to them as “Bengali.” Following the widespread violence directed at the Rohingya in 2017, hundreds of thousands of people fled to camps across the border in Bangladesh. The UN report called the “clearance operations” a human-rights catastrophe, noting “the estimate of up to 10,000 deaths is conservative.”
Discrimination against the Rohingya began well before the widespread violence directed at them in August 2017, following the attack on Burmese military posts by an armed Rohingya group. But the discrimination was codified in 1982, when Burma’s junta passed a law that identified eight ethnicities entitled to citizenship and excluded the Rohingya, who until then had enjoyed equal rights under the law, from the list. The Rohingya suffered persecution in the following years. The worst of it occurred in 2012, following the rape of a Buddhist woman allegedly by Muslim men. The violence that followed forced 140,000 Rohingya into camps for internally displaced people.
Although the fact-finding mission’s recommendation that Myanmar’s generals be investigated for genocide is significant, it took years to get to this point. It will likely take years more for there to be any meaningful action—by no means assured at this point—against the alleged perpetrators.