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September 25, 2017

Tribunal Finds Myanmar Guilty of Genocide against Rohingya

Source: Radio Free Asia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Reported by Hadi Azmi/BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

22 Sep 2017 – An international panel of judges declared today that the Myanmar
government is guilty of committing genocide against Rohingya Muslims, who have
been fleeing the country following months of military crackdowns against the minority

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT), a network of scholars and experts from
around the globe, delivered its verdict after five days of hearings and testimony from
witnesses in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

“[T]he State of Myanmar is guilty of the crime of genocide against the Rohingya
group,” Daniel Feierstein, an Argentinian jurist who headed the panel, said in reading
out its unanimous verdict at the University of Malaya.

“Moreover, that genocide against the Rohingya is now taking place with ongoing acts
of genocide and the possibility the casualties of that genocide could be even higher in
the future if nothing is done to stop it,” he went on to say.

Top UN officials have described what’s occurring in Myanmar’s northwest state of
Rakhine as “ethnic cleansing,” but have not used the term “genocide.” Ethnic
cleansing, unlike genocide, has not been designated as an independent crime under
international law.

Crimes against the Rohingya qualified as genocide because Myanmar had pursued
“systematic policies of discrimination and physical elimination,” and “active denial of
identity and culture” against them, the PPT said.

The panel gathered evidence from witnesses, experts and prosecutors showing there
was “systematic use of the whole spectrum of atrocious violations of the right to life
and dignity of the affected populations.”

“Raping of women was possibly the most conspicuously present, beside the killing and
burning of children and elderly, tortures, and the long list of acts included in the
definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of war,” the tribunal

More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh in the past year
amid what Amnesty International called mass scale “scorched-earth” campaigns in
Rakhine state.

Myanmar’s military had launched security operations in Rakhine after Rohingya
militants attacked police posts and killed some two dozen security forces. About 1,000
people have been killed in clashes and security sweeps, according to the U.N.

The verdict by the experts on Friday marked the first time international jurists had
described the situation in Rakhine as “genocide.”

Myanmar government representatives did not testify during the hearings, or respond
to requests to appear before the tribunal, according to PPT officials. The Myanmar
embassy in the Malaysian capital did not respond to calls from BenarNews, an RFA-
affiliated online news service.

‘Total impunity’

The tribunal also found that the Myanmar government had “genocidal intent” against
other Muslims in the country, and the Kachin people, and that it had committed
“crimes of humanity” against them.

The Kachin ethnic group lives in northern Burma’s Kachin State. Rebels in Kachin
have been fighting for decades for independence or autonomy within a federal
Myanmar, which successive governments of the ethnically diverse country have long

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal – founded in 1979 and headquartered in Italy – is
an “opinion tribunal” whose rulings are not legally binding. It began deliberations in
London in March into whether state crimes were being committed against various
groups in Myanmar.

The tribunal will forward its findings to international bodies and civil groups in order to
keep pressure on the Myanmar authorities, Feierstein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

The six other panelists were human rights lawyers Nursyahbani Katjasungkana of
Indonesia and Shadi Sadr of Iran; Helen Jarvis, an Australian-Cambodian jurist; Gill
Boehringer, former dean of the law school at Australia’s Macquarie University; Nello
Rossi, an Italian solicitor-general; and Zulaiha Ismail, a trustee at Malaysia’s Perdana
Global Peace Foundation.

Hasina addresses UN

Myanmar government officials have blamed atrocities, including the burnings of
hundreds of Rohingya homes in Rakhine, on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army
(ARSA), which it had branded as a terrorist group.

During her address to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, Bangladesh Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina called on Myanmar to stop the “violence and the practice of
ethnic cleansing in Rakhine” immediately and without condition.

She also called for “safe zones” to be created in Rakhine so all communities living
there could be protected “irrespective of religion and ethnicity.”

On Friday, the U.N.’s resident coordinator in Bangladesh said the United Nations
would need $200 million over the next six months to deal with the unprecedented
influx of refugees from Rakhine.

Earlier this week, the United States announced that it would provide close to $32
million in new humanitarian aid to help with the refugee situation in southeastern
Bangladesh and Rohingya who were displaced within Rakhine.

Speaking before the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence also called
on Myanmar’s security forces to end the violence immediately. “The images of the
violence and its victims have shocked the American people and decent people all
over the world,” he said.

In a speech to diplomats in Naypyidaw earlier this week, de facto Myanmar leader
Aung San Suu Kyi said there had been no further clashes or clearance operations
after Sept. 5, and claimed that any human rights violations would be addressed “with
strict norms of justice.”