UN Investigation of the Rohingya Crisis

The United Nations called on Myanmar officials to face genocide charges for heinous actions taken against the Rohingya people for the first time. According to Al Jazeera, a UN investigation uncovered that since August 2017, the armed forces of Myanmar forced roughly 700,000 Rohingya to flee the country breaking international law. Additionally, UN investigators stated that the Commander-In-Chief and top generals should be arrested for carrying out mass murders and gang rapes with genocidal intention. The UN investigation will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council and potentially to the Security Council thereafter. However, Myanmar has not signed the Rome Statute, so the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction to act on the findings of the UN.

Marzuki Darusman acted as the UN mission’s chairman and spoke in Geneva to discuss the evidence amassed and report the findings. Marzuki said victim accounts were “amongst the most shocking human rights violations [and would] leave a mark on all of us for the rest of our lives”. Further, he claimed the military had shown “flagrant disregard for lives” and acted on “extreme levels of brutality.” The report claimed that “Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages.” Further, it particularly identified the state of Rakhine as a hub of vast violations. “The crimes in Rakhine state, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts,” the UN mission concluded, adding there was “sufficient information” to prosecute the military’s chain of command.

Since the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction in Myanmar Christopher Sidoti, a member of the investigatory committee, urged the UN Security Council and General Assembly to act on the report’s findings. Sidoti said, “We are convinced the international community holds the key to dismantling the destructive veil of impunity in Myanmar.” According to Brad Adams, who is the Asia director for the Human Rights Watch, “The Fact-Finding Mission’s powerful report and clear recommendations demonstrate the obvious need for concrete steps to advance criminal justice for atrocious crimes, instead of more hollow condemnations and expressions of concern.” He is in agreement with Christopher Sidoti, saying, “UN member states should step up efforts that include the urgent creation of an International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to ensure those most responsible for grave crimes do not escape prosecution.”

The crimes against the Rohingya are even more undeniable following the publication of the UN investigatory report. World leaders need to condemn and take stronger action against Myanmar as well as work together to create a mechanism to make those who acted so heinously to face swift and strong justice. Myanmar will likely try to escape any allegations of human rights violations and intention to genocide, but the international community must work together to dissuade future mass violence conducted by governments by showing strong action against those acting in ways deemed unethical.

Events beginning in 2012 have led to the current Rohingya crisis. In 2012, violent riots between the Rohingya and the native Rakhine in the Rakhine State occurred and have escalated up to today. Terrorist attacks in 2016 and 2017 further increased tensions between the Rohingya and Myanmar’s government, as the national armed forces blamed the Muslim population and the persecution of the Rohingya significantly increased. Today, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya men, women, and children have been killed, raped, displaced or otherwise strongly affected by the actions of Myanmar’s armed forces.

The UN investigation of the Rohingya crisis makes it impossible for governments to ignore and deny the necessity of global efforts to cease the violence against the Rohingya as well as force those guilty to face justice. The Security Council must put personal politics aside and represent what the United Nations ought to achieve. An organization that is capable of encouraging international standards, and when necessary, allow states to work together to resolve major crises.