The level of brutality used by Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya minority is “hard to fathom”, a UN investigator said Tuesday, presenting a damning report calling for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide.
“It is hard to fathom the level of brutality of Tatmadaw operations, its total disregard for civilian life,” Marzuki Darusman, who heads a fact-finding mission into violations in Myanmar, told the UN Human Rights Council, referring to the nation’s military.
He presented the mission’s 444-page report which lays out in horrifying detail a vast array of violations committed by Myanmar’s powerful military, especially against the Rohingya Muslims.
A brutal military crackdown last year forced more than 700,000 Rohingyas to flee over the border to Bangladesh. Demands have mounted for those who waged the campaign to face justice.
Myanmar’s army has denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting its campaign was justified to root out Rohingya insurgents who staged deadly raids on border posts in August 2017.
But the UN team said the military’s tactics had been “consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”.
The report said an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown and that was likely a conservative figure.
In his presentation Tuesday, Darusman detailed massacres in Rohingya villages, describing how people unable to escape “were rounded up and separated by sex.”
“The men were systematically killed. Children were shot, thrown into the river or onto a fire.”
Women and girls meanwhile were routinely gang-raped, with many of them “physically and mentally tortured while being raped,” he said, pointing out that many had been severely bitten, in what appeared to be “akin to a form of branding.”
Darusman said the “scale, cruelty and systematic nature (of the sexual violence) reveal beyond doubt that rape is used as a tactic of war.”
“We have concluded that… the acts of the Tatmadaw and other security forces fall within four of the five categories of genocidal acts,” he said.
“All the circumstances are such as to warrant an inference of genocidal intent.”
A shorter version of the mission’s report, published last month, had already called for Myanmar’s army chief to resign and for him and five other top military commanders to be prosecuted in an international court for genocide.
The longer version, presented Tuesday, also called for Myanmar’s military, which dominates the Buddhist-majority nation — holding a quarter of all seats in parliament and controlling three ministries — to be completely removed from politics.
Darusman lamented that Myanmar’s government had not cooperated with the mission’s probe.
“Democracy requires a government that accepts scrutiny,” he said, stressing that “it requires a legal framework that guarantees these rights for all, without discrimination.”
“In this regard, the democratic transition in Myanmar had barely begun and now it has come to a standstill.”