Two Myanmarese soldiers have been taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) after confessing to their participation in the 2017 massacre of countless Rohingya Muslims, two news organizations and a rights group say.
The two men admitted to killing dozens of villagers in northern Rakhine State and burying them in mass graves, according to The New York Times, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the non-profit Fortify Rights, citing statements the men made on videos filmed in Myanmar earlier this year.
In the videos, the two men also provide the names of the Myanmarese army battalions that were involved in the brutal campaign, the villages they destroyed, as well as the locations of mass graves.
The pair describes very similar orders from different superiors to kill or shoot “all” the Rohingya Muslims they encountered, and says that women, children, and elderly people were among their victims.
The reports said the men had been in the custody of the Arakan Army (AA), a Buddhist rebel group calling for greater autonomy for Rakhine, when they made the admissions.
The reports said the men appeared together on the Bangladesh border in mid-August, retelling their stories, and requesting protection.
With their transfer to ICC custody, the soldiers are now potential witnesses to genocide.
The ICC last year approved a long-awaited full investigation into the crimes against the Rohingya minority.
Myanmar has not signed up to the ICC but the court ruled last year that it had jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya minority because Bangladesh, where many Rohingya survivors are now refugees, is a member.
The Gambia, acting on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has also launched a separate case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations (UN)’s top court, also based in The Hague. Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which compels all signatory states to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
A United Nations fact-finding mission had previously found that “the gravest crimes under international law” had been committed in Myanmar and called for genocide trials.
In August 2017, the Myanmarese military and Buddhist mobs started a campaign of murder, rape, and torture against the Rohingya in Myanmar that UN investigators later said was conducted with “genocidal intent.”
Some 740,000 Rohingya survivors fled to Bangladesh. Countless others didn’t make it.