International rights group heavily criticised the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE)’s report on the war crimes committed by Myanmar’s military against its Rohingya minority. The 15-page executive summary released by the Office of the President on January 21, 2020 found no evidence of genocidal intent and did not address alleged crimes against humanity.
Human Rights Watch claims the report falls short of creating the conditions for justice and accountability as its contains selective admissions of military wrongdoing but does not begin to address the massive violations by government security forces.
The summary acknowledged that members of Myanmar’s security forces committed war crimes and serious human rights violations against “Muslims” in northern Rakhine State.
Yet it found “no evidence of gang rape committed by Myanmar’s security forces,” despite extensive documentation of widespread rape against Rohingya women and girls by the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar and human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch.
The government has yet to release the full report.
“The Myanmar commission’s report departs from longstanding government efforts to absolve the military of wrongdoing, but it’s still a major disappointment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Contrary to the UN’s findings, the report refuses to acknowledge the scale of atrocities against the Rohingya, shockingly denies the military’s widespread use of sexual violence, and fails to hold senior military officials responsible. The report isn’t a credible basis for justice and accountability for mass crimes.”
The commission’s summary reflects a nontransparent investigation by a politically skewed commission working closely with the Myanmar government, Human Rights Watch said.
The commission acknowledged that “some members of Myanmar’s Defence Services and the Police Force intentionally killed or displaced civilians, mostly Muslims, during the internal armed conflict in northern Rakhine State in 2017.”
It also found that “possible war crimes” and “serious human rights violations may have occurred in the form of disproportionate use of force by some members of Myanmar’s Defence Services and Police Force in the course of internal armed conflict” against the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
The commission also found that “mass killings” of civilians by security forces occurred in Tula Toli (also called Min Gyi), Chut Pyin, Maung Nu, and Gu Dar Pyin villages in Maungdaw Township, but suggests – contrary to findings by the UN and rights groups – that most of the killings occurred during armed clashes between the military and ARSA.
The commission said it found no evidence suggesting killings or acts of displacement were committed with “an intent or plan to destroy the Muslim or any other community in northern Rakhine State,” thus seeking to repudiate genocide allegations. It failed to address allegations of crimes against humanity, which entail a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population.
“The commission appears to admit just enough to try to placate international opinion, which has overwhelmingly concluded that crimes against humanity and even genocide occurred, while shielding senior military commanders who planned and ordered atrocities,” Adams said.
The Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), established in August 2018, deployed two Evidence Collection and Verification Teams in Yangon and Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, but did not interview refugees in Bangladesh, where Rohingyas could speak more freely and with less fear of retaliation. (Source: HRW)