By Sorwar Alam and Sena Guler
After a months-long investigation into the Myanmar government’s persecution against the Rohingya, a U.S.-based humanitarian rights law group has found that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that Rohingya are victims of genocide.
The Washington-based Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG) said it will hold a press conference on Monday for the release of the Factual Findings and Legal Analysis Report based on the investigation on Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
It said that the would-be-published report states there is a “reasonable basis to conclude that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide were committed against the Rohingya population.”
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children and women, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community.
The U.S. State Department had tasked PILPG to undertake a comprehensive human rights documentation investigation mission in the Rohingya refugee camps and settlement areas in southeastern Bangladesh in March and April this year.
In September, the rights law firm had released an initial qualitative report to outline the factual findings and initial conclusions from PILPG’s investigation mission.
The second report, which presents the key factual findings and subsequent legal analysis of the interviews, including the patterns of violations committed against the Rohingya and recommendations for future justice and accountability efforts, is due to be released on Monday.
- Pattern of abuse
The first report revealed “clear patterns of abuse against the Rohingya, some of which stretch back for decades.”
The report is based on interviews of more than 1,000 refugees who had fled the Rakhine State of Myanmar after October 2016.
“The interviews revealed years-long patterns of violence and widespread human rights violations targeted against the Rohingya, including curfews and movement restrictions, property and land confiscation, restricted access to food, marriage and family restrictions, religious persecution, extortion and threats of violence, forced labor, and regular beatings, rapes, and murder,” the report said.
It emphasized that here was a long period of “most consistent persecution and escalating violence against Rohingya” that began in 2012 and intensified in August 2017, when the Myanmar army conducted major attacks against the group, causing a mass displacement of Rohingya to Bangladesh.
Violations and abuses targeting Rohingya were perpetrated by the Myanmar armed forces -- mainly the Tatmadaw-Army -- the Border Guard Police, Combat Police Force, and Rakhine State Police.”
It added that these attacks left out non-Rohingya civilians or they were evacuated by the security forces before the attacks.
It also noted that the investigation showed a notable increase in the military and police presence in the northern Rakhine State, where there are Rohingya villages, weeks before major systematic attacks in August-September 2017.
“The attacks were brutal. […] Of the 1,024 Rohingya interviewed, 20 percent were themselves physically injured in the attacks, nearly 70 percent witnessed their homes or villages being destroyed, and 80 percent witnessed the killing of a family member, friend, or personal acquaintance,” it reported.
- Burning bodies
It also said that the perpetrators did not just want to expel Rohingya but they wanted to “exterminate” them.
“[Violence against Rohingya] was well-planned, widespread, systematic, and aimed at terrorizing the Rohingya, rendering them defenseless, and ensuring their removal from Myanmar—whether by displacement or death,” it said.
“The Myanmar armed forces burned many of the bodies or sought to dispose of them in mass graves or in nearby bodies of water, including wells,” it reported, adding that findings suggest that “these attacks were all part of a highly coordinated military campaign that required tactical and logistical planning”.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.