"We will destroy everything": Military responsibility for crimes against humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar

Human rights Military operations Ethnic conflict Crimes against humanity Myanmar

Early in the morning of 25 August 2017, a Rohingya armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched coordinated attacks on security force posts in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, the Myanmar security forces, led by the Myanmar Army, attacked the entire Rohingya population in villages across northern Rakhine State.

In the 10 months after 25 August, the Myanmar security forces drove more than 702,000 women, men, and children—more than 80 per cent of the Rohingya who lived in northern Rakhine State at the crisis’s outset— into neighbouring Bangladesh. The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population was achieved by a relentless and systematic campaign in which the Myanmar security forces unlawfully killed thousands of Rohingya, including young children; raped and committed other sexual violence against hundreds of Rohingya women and girls; tortured Rohingya men and boys in detention sites; pushed Rohingya communities toward starvation by burning markets and blocking access to farmland; and burned hundreds of Rohingya villages in a targeted and deliberate manner.

These crimes amount to crimes against humanity under international law, as they were perpetrated as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Rohingya population. Amnesty International has evidence of nine of the 11 crimes against humanity listed in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court being committed since 25 August 2017, including murder, torture, deportation or forcible transfer, rape and other sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearance, and other inhumane acts, such as forced starvation. Amnesty International also has evidence that responsibility for these crimes extends to the highest levels of the military, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services.

This report is based on more than 400 interviews carried out between September 2017 and June 2018, including during four research missions to the refugee camps in Bangladesh and three missions to Myanmar, one of which was to Rakhine State. The interviews were overwhelmingly with survivors and direct witnesses to crimes. Amnesty International sought out people from different ethnic and religious communities from northern Rakhine State, including Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim group; ethnic Rakhine, Mro, Khami, and Thet, all predominantly Buddhist groups; and Hindu.

In addition to survivors and witnesses, Amnesty International interviewed humanitarian aid workers in Bangladesh and Myanmar; medical professionals in Bangladesh who had treated violence-related injuries among Rohingya refugees; analysts of the Myanmar military; diplomats; journalists; and local administrative officials in Myanmar, known as Village Administrators. The report also draws on an extensive analysis of satellite imagery and data; forensic medical examination of injury photographs; authenticated photographic and video material taken by Rohingya in northern Rakhine State; confidential documents, particularly on the Myanmar military’s command structure; and open source investigations and analysis, including of Facebook posts related to the Myanmar military.

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