Japan Welcomes Myanmar Govt’s Report on Crimes Against Rohingya, Promise to Prosecute

By San Yamin Aung 23 January 2020

YANGON—The Japanese government has welcomed the final report from the Myanmar government’s Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) concerning the human rights violations in northern Rakhine State in late 2017, as well as the Myanmar government’s announcement that it will investigate and prosecute cases, as significant progress towards ensuring accountability.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday that Japan has repeatedly encouraged the Myanmar government and military to investigate the alleged human rights violations in a transparent and credible manner and to take measures accordingly.

“Japan appreciates the submission of the final report by the ICOE and the announcement of the position by the Myanmar government as significant progress in Myanmar’s own efforts to ensure accountability,” the statement read.

The ICOE submitted its final report with 22 recommendations to Myanmar President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday. The 461-page document denied that crimes by security forces against Rohingya Muslims during clearance operations in Rakhine State had “genocidal intent,” contradicting the findings of UN investigators. The ICOE did conclude that “war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law took place.”

On Tuesday, President U Win Myint said he concurred with the commission’s recommendations and had sent the full report to the Union Attorney General “for further investigation and prosecution” of cases, including any crimes committed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

The President also sent the ICOE report to military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing so that the military can “extend its ongoing investigations and prosecutions to cover crimes alleged to have been committed by members of the Myanmar security forces.”

The Japanese government said it strongly hopes that both the Myanmar government and military will promptly take necessary legal measures based on the recommendations of the commission, “while also endeavoring to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents and to abide by relevant international law.”

It also expressed its continuing support for Myanmar’s democracy and the government’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Rakhine State and to facilitate the return of “displaced persons.” The statement did not use the word Rohingya.

Japan has maintained good relations with successive Myanmar governments and showed especially strong support for the democratically elected government led by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Japan was the first country to firmly voice support for Myanmar when the country’s legal team testified at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in December. 

The ICJ will rule on Thursday on whether to approve The Gambia’s request that provisional measures be taken against Myanmar to stop an alleged “ongoing genocide” against the Rohingya. The small African nation filed the lawsuit with the court accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against the Rohingya.

The US Embassy in Yangon also posted a notice on Facebook acknowledging the ICOE’s report and the upcoming ruling by the ICJ. “We hope Myanmar will use these developments to pursue justice in Rakhine and greater respect for human rights so that the whole country can move forward in a positive direction,” the post read.

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