The UK-based Amnesty International today revealed a report on atrocities in Myanmar accusing the country of committing “crimes against humanity” by killing hundreds of men, women and children during a systematic campaign to expel the entire ethnic Muslim community.
“Witness accounts, satellite imagery and data, and photo and video evidence gathered by Amnesty International all point to the same conclusion,” the global rights group said in an “evidence-based” report incorporating testimonies from 120 Rohingyas.
It added, “Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya women, men, and children have been the victims of a widespread and systematic attack, amounting to crimes against humanity.”
The report said under an “orchestrated campaign”, Myanmar’s security forces brutally meted out revenge on the entire Rohingya population of northern Rakhine State, in an apparent attempt to “permanently drive them out of the country”.
The amnesty report came as more than 580,000 Rohingyas crossed in to Bangladesh since 25 August, when Myanmar security forces launched a scorched- earth campaign against Rohingya villages saying it was responding to attacks by Muslim insurgents.
“Exposing these heinous crimes is the first step on the long road to justice,” the rights group said.
The report said satellite imagery, corroborated by witness accounts, showed that Rohingya homes and mosques have been burned entirely in villages, while non-Rohingya areas just one or two hundred yards away were untouched.
“It speaks to how organised, how seemingly well-planned this scorched- earth campaign has been by the Myanmar military and how determined the effort has been to drive the Rohingya population out of the country,” Mr Wells said.
The group said at least hundreds of people were killed by security forces who surrounded villages, shot fleeing inhabitants and then set buildings alight, burning to death the elderly, sick and disabled who were unable to flee while in some villages, women and girls were raped or subjected to other sexual violence.
“The witnesses repeatedly described an insignia on their attackers’ uniforms that matched one worn by troops from Burma’s Western Command,” the Amnesty said.
Amnesty International interviewed seven Rohingya survivors of sexual violence committed by the Myanmar security forces. Of those, four women and a 15-year-old girl had been raped, each in a separate group with between two and five other women and girls who were also raped.
Report said “The rapes occurred in two villages that the organization investigated: Min Gyi in Maungdaw Township and Kyun Pauk in Buthidaung Township.”
As previously documented by Human Rights Watch and The Guardian, after entering Min Gyi (known locally as Tula Toli) on the morning of 30 August, Myanmar soldiers pursued Rohingya villagers who fled down to the riverbank and then separated the men and older boys from the women and younger children.
After opening fire on and executing at least scores of men and older boys, as well as some women and younger children, the soldiers took women in groups to nearby houses where they raped them, before setting fire to those houses and other Rohingya parts of the village.
S.K., 30, told Amnesty International that after watching the executions, she and many other women and younger children were taken to a ditch, where they were forced to stand in knee-deep water.
Amnesty report said, “They took the women in groups to different houses. …There were five of us [women], taken by four soldiers [in military uniform]. They took our money, our possessions, and then they beat us with a wooden stick. My children were with me. They hit them too. Shafi, my two- year-old son, he was hit hard with a wooden stick. One hit, and he was dead… Three of my children were killed. Mohamed Osman (10) [and]Mohamed Saddiq (five) too. Other women [in the house]also had children [with them]that were killed.
“All of the women were stripped naked…They had very strong wooden sticks. They first hit us in the head, to make us weak. Then they hit us [in the vagina]with the wooden sticks. Then they raped us. A different soldier for each [woman].”
After raping women and girls, the soldiers set fire to the houses, killing many of the victims inside.
Deliberate, organized village burnings On 3 October, the UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) reported that it had identified 20.7 square kilometres of buildings destroyed by fire in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships since 25 August. Even that likely underestimated the overall scale of destruction and burning, as dense cloud cover affected what the satellites were able to detect.
Amnesty International’s own review of fire data from remote satellite sensing indicates at least 156 large fires in northern Rakhine State since 25 August, also likely to be an underestimate. In the previous five years, no fires were detected during the same period, which is also the monsoon season, strongly indicating that the burning has been intentional.
Amnesty report added, “Before and after satellite images strikingly illustrate what witnesses also consistently told Amnesty International – that the Myanmar security forces only burned Rohingya villages or areas.”
It said, “For example, satellite images of Inn Din and Min Gyi show large swathes of structures razed by fire virtually side by side with areas that were left untouched. Distinct features of the untouched areas, combined with accounts from Rohingya residents as to where they and other ethnic communities lived in those villages, indicate that only Rohingya areas were razed.”
Amnesty International has noted a similar pattern in at least a dozen more villages where Rohingya lived in close proximity to people from other ethnicities.
“Given their ongoing denials, Myanmar’s authorities may have thought they would literally get away with murder on a massive scale. But modern technology, coupled with rigorous human rights research, have tipped the scales against them,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.
Report said, “Given their ongoing denials, Myanmar’s authorities may have thought they would literally get away with murder on a massive scale. But modern technology, coupled with rigorous human rights research, have tipped the scales against them.”
“It is time for the international community to move beyond public outcry and take action to end the campaign of violence that has driven more than half the Rohingya population out of Myanmar. Through cutting off military cooperation, imposing arms embargoes and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for abuses, a clear message must be sent that the military’s crimes against humanity in Rakhine State will not be tolerated.”
“The international community must ensure that the ethnic cleansing campaign does not achieve its unlawful, reprehensible goal. To do so, the international community must combine encouraging and supporting Bangladesh in providing adequate conditions and safe asylum to Rohingya refugees, with ensuring that Myanmar respects their human right to return safely, voluntarily and with dignity to their country and insisting that it ends, once and for all, the systematic discrimination against the Rohingya and other root causes of the current crisis.”