Authorities in Myanmar have sentenced a Rohingya man to death for leading and participating in terrorist attacks on border police stations that left nine officers dead in Rakhine state’s Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships four months ago, police officials said Monday.
Muhammad Nul, also known as Ula, received the sentence at the district court in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe on Feb. 10 for intentional murder during a raid on Rathedaung’s Kotankauk border post, police said.
The 23-year-old from Maungdaw’s Kyautpyinsite village is one of 14 people police have charged in the attacks, but the only one so far to receive the death penalty, they said.
Trials are under way for the other 13 in special courtrooms in Maungdaw and neighboring Buthidaung township, though they have yet to be sentenced, lawyers said.
Myanmar has said those who carried out the attacks were militant Rohingya Muslims who had received training and financial support from Islamists abroad.
The news comes as Myanmar police investigate allegations of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims who live in the areas where the border guard attacks occurred on Oct. 9, 2016.
More than 1,000 Rohingya are believed to have died in a subsequent security operation by Myanmar soldiers and border police in northern Rakhine state, while about 69,000 Rohingya have fled mainly to neighboring Bangladesh, according to United Nations estimates.
Some Rohingya have accused the security forces of murder, torture, rape, and arson, prompting the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to issue a report on Feb. 3 saying that the abuses indicate “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”
The Myanmar government has denied allegations of abuse, but set up an investigation commission in December to look into the violence in northern Rakhine.
In an interim report in January, the commission said it had found no evidence of genocide or religious persecution of Rohingya Muslims living in the region, and that its probe of rape allegations had yielded insufficient evidence to take legal action.
On Friday, the commission set out on a six-day fact-finding mission to the affected areas to investigate the U.N.’s allegations of human rights violations.
Other investigation teams
Last week the Myanmar military also created a team to investigate whether soldiers stationed in northern Rakhine used excessive force and committed human rights violations.
Myanmar’s police have also set up a team of high-ranking officials to investigate the allegations of human rights abuse by security forces.
A statement issued by the home affairs ministry on Sunday said that if security force members violated human rights, they would be charged under police disciplinary law, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
The statement also said that action was being taken against officers who did not follow instructions, but gave no further details, the report said.
It was an apparent reference to a small group of police officers caught on video abusing Rohingya civilians in a village in Maungdaw during the security sweep early last November. Those involved in the incident were sentenced to two months in prison.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.