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"My world is finished". Rohingya targeted in crimes against humanity in Myanmar

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Introduction

Early in the morning of 25 August 2017, members of a Rohingya armed group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), attacked approximately 30 security force outposts in northern Rakhine State.1 In its response, the Myanmar Army, rather than targeting ARSA, launched an attack on the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State as a whole. Often working with Border Guard Police (BGP) and local vigilantes, the military has carried out a campaign of violence that has been systematic, organized, and ruthless.

In this briefing, Amnesty International presents evidence that the Myanmar military has killed at least hundreds of Rohingya women, men, and children; raped and perpetrated other forms of sexual violence on Rohingya women and girls; and carried out organized, targeted burning of entire Rohingya villages. This briefing builds on Amnesty International’s published findings since the crisis began, including on the Myanmar military’s use of anti-personnel landmines. In seven weeks, the relentless human rights violations have forced more than 520,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. More cross the border daily.

The attack on the Rohingya population has been both systematic and widespread, constituting serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity under international law (see text box below). The violations and crimes have been committed within a context of decades of systematic, state-led discrimination and persecution of the Rohingya population and occasional large-scale outbursts of violence.

After ARSA attacks on security force outposts in October 2016, the Myanmar military carried out “clearance operations” marked by widespread and systematic human rights violations, including unlawful killings, sexual violence and other forms of torture, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests, which Amnesty International concluded may have amounted to crimes against humanity. The current campaign is an escalation, with the targeted burning of villages on a massive scale seemingly designed to push the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State out of the country and make it incredibly difficult for them to return.

This briefing is based primarily on more than 150 interviews conducted in person in the Cox’s Bazaar region of Bangladesh and by phone with people inside northern Rakhine State. Amnesty International had a consistent research presence in Bangladesh for most of September, interviewing more than 120 Rohingya who have fled since 25 August, as well as medical professionals, aid workers, journalists and Bangladeshi authorities. In early September, Amnesty International also met in Naypyidaw and Yangon with Myanmar government officials as well as foreign diplomats, aid workers, and journalists. Where they have consented, interviewees are referred to using their real names; in other cases, in particular for survivors of sexual violence, interviewees are referred to using initials that do not reflect their actual names.

In addition, this briefing draws on an analysis of satellite imagery and data, as well as dozens of photographs and video footage taken inside Rakhine State and subsequently verified as authentic by Amnesty International. For most incidents described in this briefing, Amnesty International has corroborated events through witness accounts, satellite imagery, and verified photographs or videos from the same location.

Amnesty International has sought access to Rakhine State, including by making a formal request to the Myanmar authorities. At the time of writing, the authorities had yet to respond. Amnesty International also interviewed 12 Hindu men and women from northern Rakhine State who fled to Bangladesh, as part of its efforts to examine allegations of unlawful killings and other abuses by ARSA, including an alleged massacre in Ye Baw Kya village in Maungdaw Township. The accounts Amnesty International received included critical inconsistencies, such that we have not been able to reach a conclusion about the perpetrators at this time.

To be able to fully document the violations and abuses by all sides, including ARSA, the Myanmar authorities need to allow unfettered access to human rights organizations, journalists, and the UN Fact-Finding Mission.

In the coming months, Amnesty International will produce a full report on the current crisis, bringing together the totality of its work and examining more thoroughly the issue of individual criminal responsibility.