AI Calls Out Myanmar Military Chief, Subordinates for Crimes Against Humanity

By The Irrawaddy 27 June 2018

YANGON — Myanmar Military chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and several of his subordinates should be tried for crimes against humanity for the military’s actions against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State last year, Amnesty International says in a new report.

“We will Destroy Everything: Military Responsibility for Crimes Against Humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar,” released today, names 13 officials, including the military chief and his deputy Vice Senior General Soe Win, as having command responsibility for the murder, rape and deportation of Rohingya.

The report says Amnesty International “has evidence that responsibility for these crimes extends to the highest levels of the military, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Defense Services.”

Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in the wake of a military clearance operation in northern Rakhine triggered by a coordinated attack on 30 police posts and a military base by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in late August. The Myanmar government has denounced the group as terrorists.

The report calls for Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation and prosecution. It coincides with the ICC’s consideration to open a case against the country over the allegations of forced deportation across international borders.

“The UN Security Council should immediately refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC), so that the Office of the Prosecutor can begin investigating crimes under the Rome Statute,” the report says. It adds that the referral should cover crimes across the country as the military has also committed crimes under international law elsewhere, including in Kachin and northern Shan states, dating back to at least 2011.

Reacting to the ICC’s request last week that Myanmar weight in on a possible investigation or prosecution, government spokesperson U Zaw Htay said: “The ICC has nothing to do with Myanmar and whatever [steps toward] prosecution the ICC has made, Myanmar has no reason to respond.”

Names on the list

The list of accused by Amnesty International, besides Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and Vice Snr. Gen. Soe Win, includes senior commanders with responsibility for units that allegedly committed many of the worst atrocities such as Brigadier General Khin Maung Soe, commander of Military Operation Command 15; Brigadier General Aung Aung, commander of the 33rd Light Infantry Division; and Brigadier General Than Oo, former commander of the 99th Light Infantry Division.

The list also includes Lt. Gen. Aung Kyaw Zaw, commander of the Bureau of Special Operations No. 3; Major Aung Myo Thu, a field commander with the 33rd Light Infantry Division;  Major General Maung Maung Soe, commander of the army’s Western Command, which oversees Rakhine State; and Brigadier General Thura San Lwin, commander of the Border Guard Police during the time of the alleged crimes. Both the 33rd and 99th light infantry divisions were deployed in northern Rakhine State in mid-August.

On Monday, the European Union imposed sanctions on seven senior officials of the Myanmar Army, including six people on Amnesty International’s list. That night, only hours after the sanctions were announced, the  army said in a statement that Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Soe had been fired from the military earlier in the day for underperformance in responding to Rohingya militant attacks, and that Lt. Gen. Aung Kyaw Zaw was “given permission to resign” in May.

Amnesty International’s report also names several low-level commanders and soldiers who played a critical role in specific incidents. They include the commanding officer of the Taung Bazar Border Guard Police base, Tun Naing, who committed and ordered torture and other ill-treatment; Border Guard Police Corporal Kyaw Chay, who committed torture and other-ill treatment at the Zay Di Pyin Border Guard Police base; and Staff Sergeant Ba Kyaw, one of the principal perpetrators of the massacre in Maung Nu village.

Amnesty International said it sent letters earlier this month to Myanmar authorities including the state counselor, commander-in-chief, minister of defense and chief of police. The letters requested specific information about any criminal investigations and judicial proceedings related to the security forces’ operations in northern Rakhine State around Aug. 25.

“The State Counselor’s Office confirmed receipt on 13 June. At time of publication, Amnesty International had not received any response from the civilian or military authorities,” it said.

Neither the government nor the military were immediately available for comments on Wednesday.

Last month Amnesty International released another report with evidence of a massacre of Hindus by ARSA in Rakhine State last year, making it the first international rights group to shed light on what it called “the largely under-reported human rights abuses” by the militant group. Reacting to that report, the military issued a statement praising Amnesty International for its neutrality and encouraging other international organizations and media to follow its example.