UN investigators have concluded that sexual violence committed by Myanmar soldiers against Rohingya Muslim women and girls was an indication of the military’s genocidal intent to destroy the persecuted ethnic minority in their homeland of Rakhine state.
Sexual violence was so widespread and severe that it demonstrated intent to commit genocide and as warranted prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said in a report on Thursday.
“The Mission now concludes on reasonable grounds that the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls that began on 25 August 2017 was a sixth factor that indicated the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military)’s genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya people,” the panel of independent investigators said.
According to the panel, soldiers "routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people in blatant violation of international human rights law."
“Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 percent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes. The Tatmadaw was responsible for 82 percent of these gang rapes,” the report said.
The conclusion was based on “the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injures to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh.”
The investigators traveled to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, and met with aid groups, think-tanks, academics and intergovernmental organizations to collect data and information.
The Myanmar government has refused entry to the UN investigators.
Elsewhere in the report, the investigations said that the Myanmar’s government was responsible “under the Genocide Convention for its failure to investigate and punish acts of genocide.”
It also said that two years later no military commanders have been held accountable for these and other crimes under international law and that the government “notoriously denies responsibility.”
“Myanmar’s top two military officials remain in their positions of power despite the Mission’s call for them to be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” the report noted.
The investigators said they have collected new information about alleged perpetrators and added their names to a confidential list that will be shared with the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet and another UN inquiry charged with collecting and preserving evidence for possible future trials.
The fact-finding mission, led by Indonesian human rights lawyer Marzuki Darusman, was established by the UN' s Human Rights Council in 2017 in reaction to increasing repression of the Rohingya.
A less detailed 2018 report by the fact-finding mission also tied sexual and gender-based violence to genocidal intent.
It cited statements of Myanmar officials and what was described as an "organized plan of destruction that included the targeting of women and girls of reproductive age for rape, gang rape and other forms of sexual violence" and the military's "extreme brutality, including attacks on pregnant mothers and on babies."
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh following a military-led crackdown in 2017 that the UN has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.”
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, injured, arbitrarily arrested, or raped by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs mainly between November 2016 and August 2017.
The Rohingya have inhabited Rakhine for centuries, but the state denies them citizenship.