Rohingya crisis: Myanmar rejects UN report on genocide after denying investigators access to sites

Attacks by Rohingya militant groups on police outposts ‘did not justify killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages’

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 29 August 2018 07:55 BST
More than 700,000 Rohingya now live in the largest refugee camp in the world in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
More than 700,000 Rohingya now live in the largest refugee camp in the world in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh (Getty)

Myanmar has rejected a new UN report that calls its crackdown on Rohingya Muslims an act of genocide, and wants top generals to be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A government spokesman said the report was flawed because investigators had not visited the affected region in north of the country. Yet it was the government itself that denied them access. “That’s why we don’t agree and accept any resolutions made by the [UN] Human Rights Council,” said government spokesman Zaw Htay.

Monday’s report, produced by an independent team under the mandate of the Human Rights Council, recommended prosecutions be brought against Myanmar’s six most senior generals, including its commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, at the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was based on more than 870 interviews with Rohingya refugees, satellite imagery and verified photos and videos from the massacres compiled over the past year.

The government, which shares power with the military in Myanmar, did not provide a response to the allegations despite being given early sight of the UN report. It is not a treaty member of the ICC, although it is among the 47 member-states of the Human Rights Council.

Giving a first interview on the matter, published in state media, spokesman Zaw Htay said the international community was making “false accusations”. “Our stance is clear and I want to say sharply that we don’t accept any resolutions conducted by the Human Rights Council,” he said.

Zaw Htay said the country has “zero tolerance to any human rights violation” and had set up a Commission of Enquiry to respond to claims regarding the Rohingya made by the UN and “other international communities”.

“If there is any case against human rights, just give us strong evidence, record and date so that we can take legal action against those who break the rules and regulations,” Zaw Htay said.

The UN report was compiled by a team consisting of two Burmese and two international members – the Filipino diplomat Rosario Manalo and Kenzo Oshima, Japan’s former ambassador to the UN – who were tasked with investigating human rights abuses in Rakhine state.

Their final report concluded that the Myanmar army’s excuse for the crackdown – attacks by Rohingya militant groups on police outposts – did not justify “killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages”.

It said a “conservative” estimate had 10,000 people killed in the violence, which was made all the more “shocking for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity” attached to the army’s actions.

Facebook suspended accounts belonging to senior Myanmar generals in the immediate wake of the release of Monday’s report, accusing them of using its platform to spread “hate and misinformation”.

In the interview published on Tuesday, Zaw Htay said the government had not ordered the ban and was questioning Facebook about the action, saying it had caused “mounting criticism and fear among the people”.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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