On the 20th of June, Amnesty International (AI) released the report titled, “We Will Destroy Everything”: Military Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar. This 189 page report revealed new firsthand evidence of what was labelled the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar of 2017, and took an entire nine months to investigate and compile. The greatest reveal from the document is the sound evidence it provides against the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) – specifically targeting the commander executive, along with 12 other army officials – who had been directly involved in ordering and carrying out the attack across the Rohingya community. Ultimately, the report opens up an opportunity for accountability and international action against the crimes against humanity that the forces within the army of Myanmar committed.
The report contains detailed information gathered from over 400 interviews that were conducted, of which involved personalised accounts from Rohingya refugees who resided in camps in Bangladesh on the torture, rape, and massacres that they were witness to. As of the 25th of August, 2017, these survivors had been forced to flee from their homes in fear for their lives, and their journeys took them across the border into Bangladesh territory. The documents corroborates these accounts, using evidence from satellite images, as well as forensic medical examinations that include photographs of wounds sustained from these attacks, gathered through social media or accessed via knowledge of those with connections to the military.
The work carried out by Amnesty International to build this case is powerful and relevant, because not only does it seek justice for the estimated 6 700 people killed and thousands more who have been beaten and forced to leave their homes, but it also gives hope that those who commit these atrocities will be held accountable in the future. It can also serve to protect those being repatriated by removing the risk of ethnic cleansing occurring once more. By presenting this case to the United Nations, an opportunity is thus brought forward to hold the 13 people involved accountable for their crimes, and for justice to be served for those who died and had their lives destroyed.
According to Aljazeera, the UN recently declared that Myanmar has until the 27th of July to respond to their persecution regarding another case involving deportation. The evidence for their crimes against humanity in this case had been presented by another organisation and generated by AI. A similar methodology has been used to strengthen the case against the Myanmar forces through the generation of this We Will Destroy Everything report. Indeed, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation stated that the document is a “new hope”, but that, “the international community must step in… [and refer] Myanmar to the international court of justice immediately”. Therefore, though the relevance and power of the AI-generated report in seeking accountability is not to be taken lightly, action still must be taken quickly by the international community to ensure that such events are not repeated in the future, and that those involved receive just punishment.
Finally, another reason that should prompt immediate action from the International Criminal Court is to provide protection to the Rohingya people who are being repatriated. The process of repatriation had initially been attempted back in April 2018, but fears of further discrimination and attacks dissuaded people from wanting to return to their own land, choosing instead to remain within refugee camps in Bangladesh. The evidence and findings generated by AI in this document – if successful in its goals in achieving justice against the perpetrators – may serve to restore the Rohingya people’s trust in Myanmar, and reduce the violent acts of army forces for fear of facing international repercussions. Without justice and accountability, it will no doubt be an unending difficulty for the stateless Rohingya community to ever return to the land they once called home.
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