Latest Highlight

November 21, 2017

The situation for Myanmar’s Rohingya minority has deteriorated dramatically since August 2017, when the military unleashed a brutal campaign of violence against the population living in the northern parts of Rakhine State, where the majority of Rohingya normally live. This report maps in detail the violations, in particular discrimination and racially-based restrictions in law, policy and practice that Rohingya living in Rakhine State have faced for decades, and how these have intensified since 2012, following waves of violence between Muslims and Buddhists, often supported by security forces.

November 16, 2017

Soldiers Commit Gang Rape, Murder Children

New York – Burmese security forces have committed widespread rape against women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 37-page report, “‘All of My Body Was Pain’: Sexual Violence Against Rohingya Women and Girls in Burma,” documents the Burmese military’s gang rape of Rohingya women and girls and further acts of violence, cruelty, and humiliation. Many women described witnessing the murders of their young children, spouses, and parents. Rape survivors reported days of agony walking with swollen and torn genitals while fleeing to Bangladesh.

“Rape has been a prominent and devastating feature of the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The Burmese military’s barbaric acts of violence have left countless women and girls brutally harmed and traumatized.” 

Rohingya women refugees who crossed the Naf River from Burma into Bangladesh continue inland toward refugee camps. Tek Naf, Cox's Bazar district, Bangladesh. © 2017 Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Since August 25, 2017, the Burmese military has committed killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, and mass arson of homes in hundreds of predominantly Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State, forcing more than 600,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Human Rights Watch has found that these abuses amount to crimes against humanity under international law. The military operations were sparked by attacks by the armed group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 security force outposts and an army base that killed 11 Burmese security personnel.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 52 Rohingya women and girls who had fled to Bangladesh, including 29 rape survivors, 3 of them girls under 18, as well as 19 representatives of humanitarian organizations, United Nations agencies, and the Bangladeshi government. The rape survivors came from 19 villages in Rakhine State.

Burmese soldiers raped women and girls both during major attacks on villages and in the weeks prior to these attacks after repeated harassment, Human Rights Watch found. In every case described to Human Rights Watch, the rapists were uniformed members of Burmese security forces, almost all military personnel. Ethnic Rakhine villagers, acting in apparent coordination with Burmese military, sexually harassed Rohingya women and girls, often in connection with looting.

Fifteen-year-old Hala Sadak, from Hathi Para village in Maungdaw Township, said soldiers had stripped her naked and then dragged her from her home to a nearby tree where, she estimates, about 10 men raped her from behind. She said, “They left me where I was…when my brother and sister came to get me, I was lying there on the ground, they thought I was dead.”

All but one of the rapes reported to Human Rights Watch were gang rapes. In six reported cases of “mass rape,” survivors said that soldiers gathered Rohingya women and girls into groups and then gang raped or raped them. Many of those interviewed also said that witnessing soldiers killing their family members was the most traumatic part of the attacks. They described soldiers bashing the heads of their young children against trees, throwing children and elderly parents into burning houses, and shooting their husbands.

Humanitarian organizations working with refugees in Bangladesh have reported hundreds of rape cases. These most likely only represent a small proportion of the actual number because of the significant number of reported cases of rape victims being killed and the deep stigma that makes victims reluctant to report sexual violence, especially in crowded emergency health clinics with little privacy. Two-thirds of rape survivors interviewed had not reported their rape to authorities or humanitarian organizations.

Many reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and untreated injuries, including vaginal tears and bleeding, and infections.

“One tragic dimension of this horrific crisis is that Rohingya women and girls are suffering profound physical and mental trauma without getting needed health care,” Wheeler said. “Bangladeshi authorities and aid agencies need to do more community outreach among the Rohingya to provide confidential spaces to report abuse and reduce stigma around sexual violence.”

Burmese authorities have rejected the growing documentation of sexual violence by the military. In September, the Rakhine state border security minister denied the reports. “Where is the proof?” he said. “Look at those women who are making these claims – would anyone want to rape them?”

Human Rights Watch previously documented widespread rape of women and girlsduring military “clearance operations” in late 2016 in northern Rakhine State, allegations the Burmese government crudely rejected as “fake rape.” In general, the government and military have failed to hold military personnel accountable for grave abuses against ethnic minority populations. Multiple biased and poorly conducted investigations in Rakhine State largely dismissed the allegations of these abuses.

Burma’s government should end the violations against the Rohingya immediately, cooperate fully with international investigators, including the Fact-Finding Mission established by the UN Human Rights Council, and allow humanitarian aid organizations unimpeded access to Rakhine State.

Bangladesh and international donors have acted quickly to provide relief for the refugees, and are expanding assistance for rape survivors. Concerned governments should also impose travel bans and asset freezes on Burmese military officials implicated in human rights abuses; expand existing arms embargoes to include all military sales, assistance, and cooperation; and ban financial transactions with key Burmese military-owned enterprises.

The UN Security Council should impose a full arms embargo on Burma and individual sanctions against military leaders responsible for grave violations of human rights, including sexual violence. The council should also refer the situation in Rakhine State to the International Criminal Court. It should request a public briefing from the UN special representative of the secretary-general for sexual violence in conflict, who just returned from the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh.

“UN bodies and member countries need to work together to press Burma to end the atrocities, ensure that those responsible are held to account, and address the massive problems facing the Rohingya, including victims of sexual violence,” Wheeler said. “The time for consequences is now, otherwise future Burmese military attacks on the Rohingya community appear inevitable.”

Selected accounts from Human Rights Watch interviews
  • Fatima Begum, 33, was raped one day before she fled a major attack on her village of Chut Pyin in Rathedaung Township during which dozens of people were massacred. She said: “I was held down by six men and raped by five of them. First, they [shot and] killed my brother … then they threw me to the side and one man tore my lungi [sarong], grabbed me by the mouth and held me still. He stuck a knife into my side and kept it there while the men were raping me. That was how they kept me in place. … I was trying to move and [the wound] was bleeding more. They were threatening to shoot me.”
  • Shaju Hosin, 30, saw one of her children killed when she fled their home village of Tin May, Buthiduang Township. She said: “I have three kids now. I had another one – Khadija – she was 5-years-old. When we were running from the village she was killed, in the attack. She was running last, less fast, trying to catch up with us. A soldier swung at her with his gun and bashed her head in, after that she fell down. We kept running.”
  • After her village was attacked, Mamtaz, Yunis, 33, and other women and men fled to the hills. Burmese soldiers trapped her and about 20 other women for a night and two days without food or shelter on the side of a hill. She said the soldiers raped women in front of the gathered women, or took individual women away, and then returned the women, silent and ashamed, to the group. She said, “The men in uniform, they were grabbing the women, pulling a lot of women, they pulled my clothes off and tore them off…. There were so many women … we were weeping but there was nothing we could do.” 
  • Isharhat Islam, 40, was raped by soldiers during military operations in her village Hathi Para (Sin Thay Pyin) in October 2016 and then again during the recent military operations. She described the stigma she faces, saying, “I have had to deal with disgust, others looking away from me.”
  • Three of Toyuba Yahya’s six children were killed just outside her house in Hathi Para (Sin Thay Pyin) village in Maungdaw Township. Then seven men in military uniform raped her. She said that soldiers killed two of her sons, ages 2 and 3. by beating their heads against the trunk of a tree outside her home. The soldiers then killed her 5-year-old daughter. She said: “My baby … I wanted him to be alive but he slowly died afterward … My daughter, they picked her high up and then smashed her against the ground. She was killed. I do not know why they did that. [Now] I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. Instead: thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts. I can’t rest. My child wants to go home. He doesn't understand that everything has been lost.”

New Report: Mounting Evidence of Genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

International cooperation needed to halt killing and seek justice

(WASHINGTON D.C. and COX’S BAZAR, November 15, 2017) — There is “mounting evidence” of genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, according to a new report published today by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Fortify Rights. The government of Myanmar has a responsibility to halt atrocities being perpetrated by Myanmar security forces, civilian perpetrators, and militants and hold perpetrators accountable. The international community should develop and implement a shared strategy to ensure the cessation of atrocities and advance accountability.

“The Rohingya have suffered attacks and systematic violations for decades, and the international community must not fail them now when their very existence in Myanmar is threatened” said Cameron Hudson, Director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Without urgent action, there’s a high risk of more mass atrocities.”

“They Tried to Kill Us All”: Atrocity Crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar is based on one year of research conducted by Fortify Rights and the United States Holocaust Museum in Myanmar and Bangladesh. More than 200 in-depth, in-person interviews—documented primarily by Fortify Rights in Myanmar and on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border—with Rohingya survivors and eyewitnesses of atrocity crimes, as well as international aid workers, informed the report.

It documents widespread and systematic attacks on Rohingya civilians from October 9 - December 2016 and from August 25, 2017 to the present day committed by Myanmar Army soldiers, police, and civilians.

“They tried to kill us all,” said “Mohammed Rafiq,” 25, from Min Gyi village in Maungdaw Township, recalling how soldiers corralled villagers in a group and opened fire on them on August 30, 2017. “There was nothing left. People were shot in the chest, stomach, legs, face, head, everywhere.”

The report reveals how Myanmar state security forces and civilian perpetrators committed mass killings in dozens of villages in Maungdaw Township in the first wave of violence in 2016 and in villages throughout all three townships of northern Rakhine State since August 25, 2017. Myanmar Army soldiers and civilian perpetrators slit throats; burned victims alive, including infants and children; beat civilians to death; raped and gang raped women and children. State security forces opened fire on men, women, and children at close range and at a distance and from land and helicopters, killing untold numbers. Survivors from some villages described how perpetrators slashed women’s breasts, hacked bodies to pieces, and beheaded victims, including children.

“These crimes thrive on impunity and inaction,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “Condemnations aren’t enough. Without urgent international action towards accountability, more mass killings are likely.”

More than half of Myanmar’s one million Rohinyga have fled the country in the past nine weeks and over 700,000 Rohingya are now living as refugees in Bangladesh. Thousands are still arriving in Bangladesh weekly. Since 2012, the Government of Myanmar has confined more than 120,000 Rohingya to more than 35 internment camps throughout Rakhine State.

The Myanmar Army-led assault on Rohingya civilians comes in response to attacks by the Rohingya militant group, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on three police outposts on October 9, 2016 that left nine dead and another attack on 30 police outposts and one army base on August 25, 2017 that left at least 12 dead. Members of ARSA are also responsible for human rights violations.

The government of Myanmar has enforced strict restrictions on Rohingya freedom of movement, marriage, childbirth, and other aspects of daily life for decades. The authorities deny Rohingya Myanmar citizenship by law and deny their ethnic identity, claiming they are interlopers from Bangladesh and casting them as an existential threat to Buddhist culture. The government continues to deny the delivery of essential humanitarian aid, including food and nutrition, to affected areas of northern Rakhine State.

“These crimes won’t end on their own,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Fortify Rights. “People of conscience in Myanmar need to do everything possible to end the abuses and culture of impunity in the country.”

Along with recommendations for the Government of Myanmar, the report details options for the international community, such as: enacting targeted sanctions on the individuals responsible for crimes in Rakhine State, instituting an arms embargo on Myanmar, and referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, which was established to investigate, try, and prosecute those responsible for atrocity crimes when the State is unwilling or unable to do so.

From left: Judges Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, Shadi Sadr, Boehringer, Feierstein, Helen Jarvis, Nello Rossi and Zulaiha Ismal at the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal at Universiti Malaya on Friday. Photo: The Star/Asia News Network

October 18, 2017

More than 530,000 Rohingya men, women and children have fled northern Rakhine State in terror in a matter of weeks amid the Myanmar security forces’ targeted campaign of widespread and systematic murder, rape and burning, Amnesty International said today in its most detailed analysis yet of the ongoing crisis. 

‘My World Is Finished’: Rohingya Targeted in Crimes against Humanity in Myanmar describes how Myanmar’s security forces are carrying out a systematic, organized and ruthless campaign of violence against the Rohingya population as a whole in northern Rakhine State, after a Rohingya armed group attacked around 30 security posts on 25 August. 

Dozens of eyewitnesses to the worst violence consistently implicated specific units, including the Myanmar Army’s Western Command, the 33rd Light Infantry Division, and the Border Guard Police. 

“In this orchestrated campaign, Myanmar’s security forces have brutally meted out revenge on the entire Rohingya population of northern Rakhine State, in an apparent attempt to permanently drive them out of the country. These atrocities continue to fuel the region’s worst refugee crisis in decades,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.

"Myanmar’s security forces have brutally meted out revenge on the entire Rohingya population of northern Rakhine State, in an apparent attempt to permanently drive them out of the country. Exposing these heinous crimes is the first step on the long road to justice."

“Exposing these heinous crimes is the first step on the long road to justice. Those responsible must be held to account; Myanmar’s military can’t simply sweep serious violations under the carpet by announcing another sham internal investigation. The Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, must take immediate action to stop his troops from committing atrocities.”

Crimes against humanity

Witness accounts, satellite imagery and data, and photo and video evidence gathered by Amnesty International all point to the same conclusion: hundreds of thousands of Rohingya women, men, and children have been the victims of a widespread and systematic attack, amounting to crimes against humanity. 

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists 11 types of acts which, when knowingly committed during such an attack, constitute crimes against humanity. Amnesty International has consistently documented at least six of these amid the current wave of violence in northern Rakhine State: murder, deportation and forcible displacement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts such as denying food and other life-saving provisions.

This conclusion is based on testimonies from more than 120 Rohingya men and women who have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, as well as 30 interviews with medical professionals, aid workers, journalists and Bangladeshi officials.

Amnesty International’s experts corroborated many witness accounts of the Myanmar security forces’ crimes by analysing satellite imagery and data, as well as verifying photographs and video footage taken inside Rakhine State. The organization has also requested access to Rakhine State to investigate abuses on the ground, including by members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the Rohingya armed group. Amnesty International continues to call for unfettered access to the UN Fact-Finding Mission and other independent observers.

A Rohingya refugee who arrived by boat from Myanmar overnight looks at the final stretch before arriving to Bangladesh, 28 September 2017. © Andrew Stanbridge / Amnesty International

Murder and massacres

In the hours and days following the ARSA attacks on 25 August, the Myanmar security forces, sometimes joined by local vigilantes, surrounded Rohingya villages throughout the northern part of Rakhine State. As Rohingya women, men, and children fled their homes, the soldiers and police officers often opened fire, killing or seriously injuring at least hundreds of people. 

Survivors described running to nearby hills and rice fields, where they hid until the forces left. The elderly and people with disabilities were often unable to flee, and burned to death in their homes after the military set them alight.

This pattern was replicated in dozens of villages across Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships. But the security forces, and in particular the Myanmar military, appear to have unleashed their most lethal response in specific villages near where ARSA carried out its attacks. 

Amnesty International documented events in five such villages where at least a dozen people were killed: Chein Kar Li, Koe Tan Kauk, and Chut Pyin, all in Rathedaung Township; and Inn Din and Min Gyi, in Maungdaw Township. In Chut Pyin and Min Gyi, the death toll was particularly high, with at least scores of Rohingya women, men, and children killed by Myanmar security forces. 

Amnesty International interviewed 17 survivors of the massacre in Chut Pyin, six of whom had gunshot wounds. Almost all had lost at least one family member, with some losing many. They consistently described the Myanmar military, joined by Border Guard Police and local vigilantes, surrounding Chut Pyin, opening fire on those fleeing, and then systematically burning Rohingya houses and buildings.

Fatima, 12, told Amnesty International that she was at home with her parents, eight siblings, and grandmother when they saw fire rising from another part of their village. As the family ran out of their house, she said men in uniform opened fire on them from behind. She saw both her father and 10-year-old sister get shot, then Fatima was also hit in the back of her right leg, just above the knee. 

“I fell down, but my neighbour grabbed me and carried me,” she recalled. After a week on the run, she finally received treatment in Bangladesh. Her mother and older brother were also killed in Chut Pyin.

Satellite image shows the extent of fire damage in Chut Pyin village on 16 September 2017. Image: © 2017 DigitalGlobe, Inc. Source: © 2017 Google

Amnesty International sent photographs of Fatima’s wound to a forensic medical expert, who said it was consistent with a bullet wound that “would have entered the thigh from behind.” Medical professionals in Bangladesh described treating many wounds that appeared to have been caused by gunshots fired from behind –matching consistent witness testimony that the military fired on Rohingya as they tried to run away. 

In Chein Kar Li and Koe Tan Kauk, two neighbouring villages, Amnesty International documented the same pattern of attack by the Myanmar military.

Sona Mia, 77, said he was at home in Koe Tan Kauk when Myanmar soldiers surrounded the village and opened fire on 27 August. His 20-year-old daughter, Rayna Khatun, had a disability that left her unable to walk or speak. One of his sons put her on his shoulders, and the family slowly made its way toward the hill on the village’s edge. As they heard the shooting get closer and closer, they decided they had to leave Rayna in a Rohingya house that had been abandoned. 

“We didn’t think we’d be able to make it,” Sona Mia recalled. “I told her to sit there, we’d come back… After arriving on the hill, we spotted the house where we left her. It was a bit away, but we could see. The soldiers were burning [houses], and eventually we saw that house, it was burned too.” 

After the military left the village in the late afternoon, Sona Mia’s sons went down and found Rayna Khatun’s burnt body among the torched house. They dug a grave at the edge of that house’s courtyard, and buried her there.

Rape and other sexual violence

Amnesty International interviewed seven Rohingya survivors of sexual violence committed by the Myanmar security forces. Of those, four women and a 15-year-old girl had been raped, each in a separate group with between two and five other women and girls who were also raped. The rapes occurred in two villages that the organization investigated: Min Gyi in Maungdaw Township and Kyun Pauk in Buthidaung Township. 

As previously documented by Human Rights Watch and The Guardian, after entering Min Gyi (known locally as Tula Toli) on the morning of 30 August, Myanmar soldiers pursued Rohingya villagers who fled down to the riverbank and then separated the men and older boys from the women and younger children. 

After opening fire on and executing at least scores of men and older boys, as well as some women and younger children, the soldiers took women in groups to nearby houses where they raped them, before setting fire to those houses and other Rohingya parts of the village.

S.K., 30, told Amnesty International that after watching the executions, she and many other women and younger children were taken to a ditch, where they were forced to stand in knee-deep water:

“They took the women in groups to different houses. …There were five of us [women], taken by four soldiers [in military uniform]. They took our money, our possessions, and then they beat us with a wooden stick. My children were with me. They hit them too. Shafi, my two-year-old son, he was hit hard with a wooden stick. One hit, and he was dead… Three of my children were killed. Mohamed Osman (10) [and] Mohamed Saddiq (five) too. Other women [in the house] also had children [with them] that were killed. 

“All of the women were stripped naked…They had very strong wooden sticks. They first hit us in the head, to make us weak. Then they hit us [in the vagina] with the wooden sticks. Then they raped us. A different soldier for each [woman].” 

After raping women and girls, the soldiers set fire to the houses, killing many of the victims inside.

Deliberate, organized village burnings

On 3 October, the UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) reported that it had identified 20.7 square kilometres of buildings destroyed by fire in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships since 25 August. Even that likely underestimated the overall scale of destruction and burning, as dense cloud cover affected what the satellites were able to detect. 

Amnesty International’s own review of fire data from remote satellite sensing indicates at least 156 large fires in northern Rakhine State since 25 August, also likely to be an underestimate. In the previous five years, no fires were detected during the same period, which is also the monsoon season, strongly indicating that the burning has been intentional.

Before and after satellite images strikingly illustrate what witnesses also consistently told Amnesty International – that the Myanmar security forces only burned Rohingya villages or areas. For example, satellite images of Inn Din and Min Gyi show large swathes of structures razed by fire virtually side by side with areas that were left untouched. Distinct features of the untouched areas, combined with accounts from Rohingya residents as to where they and other ethnic communities lived in those villages, indicate that only Rohingya areas were razed.

Amnesty International has noted a similar pattern in at least a dozen more villages where Rohingya lived in close proximity to people from other ethnicities.

“Given their ongoing denials, Myanmar’s authorities may have thought they would literally get away with murder on a massive scale. But modern technology, coupled with rigorous human rights research, have tipped the scales against them,” said Tirana Hassan.

"Given their ongoing denials, Myanmar’s authorities may have thought they would literally get away with murder on a massive scale. But modern technology, coupled with rigorous human rights research, have tipped the scales against them."

“It is time for the international community to move beyond public outcry and take action to end the campaign of violence that has driven more than half the Rohingya population out of Myanmar. Through cutting off military cooperation, imposing arms embargoes and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for abuses, a clear message must be sent that the military’s crimes against humanity in Rakhine State will not be tolerated.

“The international community must ensure that the ethnic cleansing campaign does not achieve its unlawful, reprehensible goal. To do so, the international community must combine encouraging and supporting Bangladesh in providing adequate conditions and safe asylum to Rohingya refugees, with ensuring that Myanmar respects their human right to return safely, voluntarily and with dignity to their country and insisting that it ends, once and for all, the systematic discrimination against the Rohingya and other root causes of the current crisis.”

Complete destruction of Rohingya villages in close proximity to intact Rakhine village, Maungdaw township, recorded on 21 September 2017. © 2017 Human Rights Watch

By Human Rights Watch
October 17, 2017

288 Villages, Tens of Thousands of Structures Torched

New York – Newly released satellite images reveal that at least 288 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine State in Burma since August 25, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The destruction encompassed tens of thousands of structures, primarily homes inhabited by ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

Ethnic Rohingya village completely destroyed adjacent to intact ethnic Rakhine village in Maungdaw Township, Burma. © 2017 Human Rights Watch

Analysis of the satellite imagery indicates both that the burnings focused on Rohingya villages and took place after Burmese officials claimed security force “clearance operations” had ceased, Human Rights Watch said. The imagery pinpoints multiple areas where destroyed Rohingya villages sat adjacent to intact ethnic Rakhine villages. It also shows that at least 66 villages were burned after September 5, when security force operations supposedly ended, according to a September 18 speech by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. The Burmese military responded to attacks on August 25 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) with a campaign of ethnic cleansing, prompting more than 530,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

“These latest satellite images show why over half a million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in just four weeks,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “The Burmese military destroyed hundreds of Rohingya villages while committing killings, rapes, and other crimes against humanity that forced Rohingya to flee for their lives.”

Map of villages destroyed in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung Townships. © 2017 Human Rights Watch

A total of 866 villages in Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships in Rakhine State were monitored and analyzed by Human Rights Watch. The most damage occurred in Maungdaw Township, accounting for approximately 90 percent of the areas where destruction happened between August 25 and September 25. Approximately 62 percent of all villages in the township were either partially or completely destroyed, and southern areas of the township were particularly hard hit, with approximately 90 percent of the villages devastated. In many places, satellite imagery showed multiple areas on fire, burning simultaneously over wide areas for extended periods.

Human Rights Watch found that the damage patterns are consistent with fire. Comparing recent imagery with those taken prior to the date of the attacks, analysis showed that most of the damaged villages were 90 to 100 percent destroyed. Many villages which had both Rohingya and Rakhine residing in segregated communities, such as Inn Din and Ywet Hnyo Taung, suffered heavy arson damage from arson attacks, with known Rohingya areas burned to the ground while known Rakhine areas were left intact.

Multiple villages on fire along the coast of Maungdaw Township, Burma on the morning of September 15, 2017. © 2017 Human Rights Watch

The Burmese government has repeatedly said that ARSA insurgents and local Rohingya communities were responsible for setting the fires that wiped out their villages, but has offered no evidence to support such claims. Human Rights Watch interviews in Bangladesh with more than 100 refugees who had fled the three townships gave no indication that any Rohingya villagers or militants were responsible for burning down their own villages.

The Burmese government and military has not impartially investigated and prosecuted alleged serious abuses committed against the Rohingya population. UN member countries and international bodies should press the Burmese government to grant access to the UN-mandated fact-finding mission to investigate these abuses. The UN Security Council should also urgently impose a global arms embargo on Burma, and place travel bans and asset freezes on those Burmese commanders responsible for grave abuses. Governments should impose a comprehensive arms embargo against Burma, including prohibiting military cooperation and financial transactions with military-owned enterprises.

“The shocking images of destruction in Burma and burgeoning refugee camps in Bangladesh are two sides of the same coin of human misery being inflicted on the Rohingya,” Robertson said. “Concerned governments need to urgently press for an end to abuses against the Rohingya and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches everyone in need.”

Myanmar to Rohingyas: “u do not belong here - go to Bangladesh. If (not) we will torch your houses and kill you.”

Brutal attacks on Rohingya meant to make their return almost impossible – UN human rights report

GENEVA (11 October 2017) – Brutal attacks against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State have been well-organised, coordinated and systematic, with the intent of not only driving the population out of Myanmar but preventing them from returning to their homes, a new UN report based on interviews conducted in Bangladesh has found.

The report by a team from the UN Human Rights Office, who met with the newly arrived Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar from 14 to 24 September 2017, states that human rights violations committed against the Rohingya population were carried out by Myanmar security forces often in concert with armed Rakhine Buddhist individuals. The report, released on Wednesday, is based on some 65 interviews with individuals and groups.

It also highlights a strategy to “instil deep and widespread fear and trauma – physical, emotional and psychological” among the Rohingya population.

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the Myanmar security forces launched an operation in response to alleged attacks by militants on 25 August against 30 police posts and a regimental headquarters. The report states the “clearance operations” started before 25 August 2017, and as early as the beginning of August.

The UN Human Rights Office is gravely concerned for the safety of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who remain in northern Rakhine State amid reports the violence is still ongoing, and calls on authorities to immediately allow humanitarian and human rights actors unfettered access to the stricken areas.

The report cites testimony from witnesses that security forces scorched dwellings and entire villages, were responsible for extrajudicial and summary executions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and attacks on places of worship. Eyewitnesses reported numerous killings, saying some victims were deliberately targeted and others were killed through explosions, fire and stray bullets.

A 12-year old girl from Rathedaung township described how “the [Myanmar security forces and Rakhine Buddhist individuals] surrounded our house and started to shoot. It was a situation of panic – they shot my sister in front of me, she was only seven years old. She cried and told me to run. I tried to protect her and care for her, but we had no medical assistance on the hillside and she was bleeding so much that after one day she died. I buried her myself.”

The report states that in some cases, before and during the attacks, megaphones were used to announce: “You do not belong here – go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you.”

Credible information indicates that the Myanmar security forces purposely destroyed the property of the Rohingyas, targeting their houses, fields, food-stocks, crops, livestock and even trees, to render the possibility of the Rohingya returning to normal lives and livelihoods in the future in northern Rakhine almost impossible.

UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who has described the Government operations in northern Rakhine State as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” has also urged the Government to immediately end its “cruel" security operation. By denying the Rohingya population their political, civil, economic and cultural rights, including the right to citizenship, he said, the Government’s actions appear to be “a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return.”

The report indicates that efforts were taken to effectively erase signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain.

Information received also indicates that the Myanmar security forces targeted teachers, the cultural and religious leadership, and other people of influence of the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge.


Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

For Immediate Release 
Tuesday 16th May 2017

Burned, Stabbed and Shot – Physical Evidence of Atrocities Committed against the Rohingya

A new report, Burned, Stabbed and Shot – Physical Evidence of Atrocities Committed against the Rohingya, published today by Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK documents physical evidence of atrocities committed against the Rohingya by the Burmese Army. 

On October 9th 2016, the long saga of oppression endured by Myanmar’s Rohingya minority entered a new phase. For the first time in a generation, members of the group staged an armed attack, on this occasion against three Border Guard posts, killing nine.

The assault was answered with months of systematic and widespread violence perpetrated by Myanmar’s military. A "flash report" released by the UN’s Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) on February 3 concluded that these operations likely involved crimes against humanity; the paper detailed acts of “devastating cruelty” including systematic rape, torture and killing.

The report contains further evidence advances the civilian population was targeted in an organised manner by state forces which systematically targeted civilians, including children, in a campaign of killing and cruelty.

What is new about the material contained in this report is that it documents, through photographs, testimony and forensic analysis, physical evidence of attacks against civilians. 

One case study is of a boy aged 8 who was burnt when soldiers set fire to his home after killing his father.

Another case study is of a 16 year old who was shot in the back whilst running away when the Burmese Army attacked his village. 

The report argues that the international community must not allow the obstruction of the Fact Finding Mission by the government of Burma to lead to further impunity for crimes being committed. If obstructed by the government, the Mission must collect evidence by other means, and this report demonstrates that it is possible to collect evidence in neighbouring countries.

The report contains detailed practical recommendations of steps the government of Burma should take to address the situation. 

“For the past 20 years the international community has failed to act when the government of Burma has ignored recommendations about the Rohingya in UN General Assembly Resolutions, UN Human Rights Council Resolutions, and by Special Rapporteurs ,” said Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK. “This must not be allowed to happen again after the Fact Finding Mission reports. This time we need action or we’ll keep seeing these kind of abuses over and over again.”

For more information please contact Tun Khin +44 7888714866

Published by Rakhine State Advisory Commission on March 16, 2017

Let me make a few introductory remarks on our report.

First, we should accept that the nature of the crisis facing Rakhine state has changed due to the attacks of 9 October and the subsequent security operations.

This has led to investigations and reports by the United Nations and human rights agencies. However, we as the Advisory Commission are guided by our mandate to focus mainly on long-standing obstacles to peace and development in Rakhine State.

We recognise that the challenges facing Rakhine State and its peoples are complex and the search for lasting solutions will require determination, perseverance and trust. Nevertheless, there are steps that

Let me make a few introductory remarks on our report.

First, we should accept that the nature of the crisis facing Rakhine state has changed due to the attacks of 9 October and the subsequent security operations.

This has led to investigations and reports by the United Nations and human rights agencies. However, we as the Advisory Commission are guided by our mandate to focus mainly on long-standing obstacles to peace and development in Rakhine State.

We recognise that the challenges facing Rakhine State and its peoples are complex and the search for lasting solutions will require determination, perseverance and trust. Nevertheless, there are steps that can be taken immediately, which we put forward in this report.
The report proposes a series of measures to address the situation in Rakhine State.

These recommendations include a renewed call for unimpeded access for humanitarian actors and journalists to the affected areas in Northern Rakhine and for independent and impartial investigation of the allegations of crimes committed on and since 9 October 2016.

We strongly believe that perpetrators of these crimes must be held to account.

Our recommendations, of course, go beyond the current situation in Northern Rakhine and include proposals relating to: the protection of rights, freedom of movement, enhanced economic and social development and the edification of Rakhine’s cultural heritage.

The Commission is aware of a number of unresolved concerns surrounding the verification of citizenship and recommends that they be clarified and resolved without delay.

We also stress that inclusive access to healthcare and education for the all the people in Rakhine requires attention and improvement.

In this context the Commission makes some interim recommendations for early remedial measures.

In the Commission’s view, creating conditions conducive for inter-communal dialogue, representation and participation in public life are essential to ensure that Rakhine state is spared from recurring cycles of violence and destruction. We make some recommendations in that regard.

In developing these interim recommendations, my fellow Commissioners and I have undertaken numerous consultations and discussions with a wide range of stakeholders in Rakhine, Yangon, and Naypyitaw.

As part of that consultative process, a Commission team visited Bangladesh. We have also held consultations with officials from Indonesia, Thailand and organisations based in New York and Geneva.

We believe that bilateral cooperation with Bangladesh on security and economic matters is critical, as is the outreach to ASEAN members.

The recommendations in this report are not exhaustive and do not address all of the issues covered in our mandate.

These are early proposals for action. The main body of our recommendations will be presented in a final report later this year.

In closing I want to commend my fellow Commissioners and members of our office in Yangon, who have worked tirelessly to fulfil the important task, set for us by the State Counsellor.

Our consultations will continue as we work to produce our final report, and we look forward to further exchanges with communities and stakeholders across Rakhine State.

Rohingya Exodus