Myanmar military operations against the Muslim Rohingya community in the country’s Rakhine state in 2017 were marked by war crimes and serious human rights violations, but did not have “genocidal intent,” a Myanmar government commission has concluded in a report released on Monday.
The report by the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), formed by Myanmar in 2018 to investigate accusations of war crimes that killed thousands of Rohingya and forced over 740,000 others to flee to safety in Bangladesh, was presented on Monday to Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
“There is insufficient evidence to argue, much less conclude, that the crimes committed were undertaken with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” a ruling required to establish a finding of genocide, the report says, contradicting findings and statements by U.N. investigators.
The release of the report—compiled from interviews with nearly 1,500 Rohingya and other ethnic group members, and with members of the military and police—comes just days before an expected ruling on the genocide charge by the U.N.’s International Court of Justice in The Hague, in the Netherlands, in a lawsuit filed by the African nation of Gambia.
Myanmar views the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and systematically discriminates against them by denying them citizenship, freedom of movement, and access to jobs, health care, and education.
In a Jan. 20 statement, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson slammed the ICOE’s findings, describing the group—led by former deputy foreign minister of the Philippines Rosario Manalo and former representative of Japan to the U.N. Kenzo Oshima—as a “politically skewed set of commissioners working closely with the Myanmar government.”
“The ICOE seems willing to blame individual soldiers for abuses but not the commanders who the UN and other investigations have found were responsible for the numerous systematic atrocities against the Rohingya,” Robertson said.
“Myanmar should immediately release the full ICOE report in both Burmese and English so the global community can read for itself how the commission did its work, what it found, and how it reached its conclusions.”
Speaking to RFA’s Myanmar Service, youth activist Thinzar Shoon Lae Yee called the report “just a reaffirmation of Myanmar’s position on this issue,” adding, “I think that government, civil society, and the people should find a middle ground between what the reports from international organizations are saying and what the government is saying.”
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s military on Dec. 30 held a fifth hearing in the court-martial of soldiers accused of committing atrocities against civilians during the brutal 2017 military-led crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, an army spokesman said.
The rare court-martial came about following a report by the Associated Press in February that up to 400 Rohingya civilians had been killed, with their bodies dumped in five mass graves and burned with acid near Buthidaung township’s Gu Dar Pyin village.
The report was based on the testimony of Rohingya refugees who were among the more than 740,000 who had fled to Bangladesh for safety during the violence.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Kyaw Aung. Written in English by Richard Finney.