Aung San Suu Kyi has been blasted by UN investigators for failing to stop a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims which they have called a genocide.
The UN report called today for six of Myanmar’s top military bosses, including the head of the army, to face genocide charges in an international court after a campaign which has seen 700,000 Rohingya flee the country.
Today’s developments prompted Facebook, which has been criticised for allowing hate speech against the Rohingya to flourish, to ban the army chief and remove other pages tied to the country’s military.
The report took aim at Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader, for failing to use her position to stop the crackdown.
She had ‘not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events,’ the report said.
Aung San Suu Kyi (pictured) has been blasted by UN investigators for failing to stop a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims which they have called a genocide
The country denies claims of ethnic cleansing but the fact-finding mission has heard accounts of arson, murder and rape at the hands of soldiers and vigilante mobs in the mainly Buddhist country.
Investigators said civilian leaders including the Nobel Prize winner, who has been widely attacked for failing to stand up for the stateless minority, had contributed to atrocities through their ‘acts and omissions’.
The UN-backed mission, which was denied access to the country, said ‘top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State.’
Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh after Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown in August last year.
Myanmar has vehemently denied allegations of ethnic cleansing, insisting it was responding to attacks by Rohingya rebels.
Military chiefs should also be investigated and prosecuted for ‘crimes against humanity and war crimes’ against the Rohingya in Rakhine, as well as against other minorities in the northern Kachin and Shan States, the mission said in a report.
The army tactics have been ‘consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats,’ it said.
The head of the mission, Marzuki Darusman, insisted that ‘the only way forward is to call for (Min Aung Hlaing’s) resignation and stepping down immediately.’
Myanmar denies ethnic cleansing but the fact-finding mission has heard accounts of arson, murder and rape. Pictured: Rohingya children wait for food at a refugee centre in Bangladesh
Facebook takes down pages of top Myanmar officials after UN report
Facebook said on Monday it was removing several Myanmar military officials from the social media website and an Instagram account to prevent the spread of ‘hate and misinformation’ after reviewing the content.
Facebook’s action means an essential blackout of the military’s main channel of public communication, with pages followed by millions of people in a country where the social media giant is virtually synonymous with the internet.
The move places further pressure on the generals, coming hours after United Nations investigators said the army carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with ‘genocidal intent’. Their report said the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces and five generals should be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under law.
‘Specifically, we are banning 20 Burmese individuals and organizations from Facebook including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the military’s Myawady television network,’ Facebook said in a blog post.
‘We’re removing a total of 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook Pages, followed by almost 12 million people,’ the Menlo Park, California-based company added.
It is the first time Facebook has imposed such a ban on a country’s military or political leaders, the company later said it response to a query from Reuters.
Facebook spokeswoman Clare Wareing said by email that the social media site took this step, ‘since international experts, including a UN-commissioned report, have found evidence that many of these officials committed serious human rights abuses in the country.’
The mission, which was created by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, concluded in its report that ‘there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) chain of command.’
‘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,’ it said.
The investigators, who were never granted access to Myanmar, said they based their findings on interviews with 875 victims and witnesses, as well as satellite imagery and authenticated documents, photographs and videos.
The report detailed a horrifying list of atrocities committed against the Rohingya, including murder, enforced disappearance, torture, as well as sexual violence ‘perpetrated on a massive scale.’
The investigators said their information suggested that an estimate by Doctors Without Borders that up to 10,000 Rohingya had been killed in the 2017 crackdown was ‘conservative’.
They also found that soldiers had carried out ‘large-scale gang rape’, sometimes of as many as 40 girls and women at once, in at least 10 Rakhine villages.
The investigators warned that the latest wave of violence was part of a ‘history of abusive military conduct going back at least half a century’.
‘The Rohingya are in a continuing situation of severe, systemic and institutionalised oppression from birth to death,’ a spokesman told reporters.
The investigators called on the UN Security Council to refer the Myanmar situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), or for the creation of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal.
They also recommended an arms embargo and ‘targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible.’
The Security Council has repeatedly urged Myanmar to halt military operations and to allow the Rohingya to safely return home, but its initiatives have been limited by council member and top Myanmar ally China, who could also thwart efforts to refer the case to the ICC.
The investigators also highlighted Facebook’s role, describing it as ‘a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate’.
Shortly after the UN report appeared, the tech giant announced it was ‘banning 20 Burmese individuals and organisations from Facebook – including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.’
It stressed that it wanted to prevent them from using the service to ‘further inflame ethnic and religious tensions’.