Speed Reads

Rohingya Crisis

U.N. report urges Rohingya 'genocide' trial for Myanmar military leaders

On Monday, a team of investigators from the United Nations-backed Human Rights Council released a scathing report on Myanmar's military campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority, recommending that the nation's military rulers be prosecuted for genocide. The list of six named leaders includes Myanmar's commander in chief, Min Aung Hlaing. The report also criticized the head of government, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to intervene to stop the violence, including by using her "moral authority."

The three-member Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar was sent to investigate human rights abuse in Myanmar, especially in Rakhine state, six months before the military started its crackdown on the Rohingya a year ago. The U.N. mission was not allowed into Myanmar, but through hundreds of interviews with refugees who fled Myanmar and satellite images, among other evidence, the report documented crimes including gang rape, the enslavement and killing of children, and burning of entire villages. The report said a "conservative" estimate is that 10,000 people were killed in the military purge, and some 700,000 Rohingya have fled, mostly to neighboring Bangladesh.

"The crimes in Rakhine state, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity, and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts," the report said. It recommended that the Myanmar atrocities be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or, if the ICC is not a viable option — Myanmar is not a member and China could block such a move in the U.N. Security Council — prosecuted through a special tribunal. "Genocide is the most serious charge that can be made against a government, and is rarely proposed by U.N. investigators," says BBC Southeast Asia correspondent Jonathan Head. But the team apparently believes it can prove "genocidal intent," a high legal bar last met in Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s.