No evidence of intent or plan to destroy Muslims or any other community in northern Rakhine: ICOE report

NAYPYITAW (Eleven Media Group/ANN) - A report by the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE)  has not found any evidence suggesting that these killings or acts of displacement were committed pursuant to an intent or plan to destroy the Muslim or any other community in northern Rakhine State.

The Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE)  has not found any evidence suggesting that these killings or acts of displacement were committed pursuant to an intent or plan to destroy the Muslim or any other community in northern Rakhine State, according to the ICOE’s final report. 

The ICOE’s Chairperson Rosario G. Manalo and party submitted the final report to President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw on 20 January. 

The government rejected the demands by the UN and western countries for allowing international independent investigation teams in the northern Rakhine. On 30 July, 2018, Myanmar President formed the ICOE with four members—two from home and the rest from abroad— to investigate allegations of human rights violations and related issues following the terrorist attacks in Rakhine State. 

The ICOE’s final report covers the context and historical background of Rakhine State, the inter-communal violence of 2012, and armed conflict of 2016 and 2017, findings of the ICOE’s Evidence Collection and Verification Team (ECVT), measures to establish accountability; principal observations and 22 recommendations.

The principal observations of the ICOE concern the following topics: wide gaps in the narratives; allegations of human rights violations, ‘ethnic cleansing’, and ‘genocide’; disproportionate or excessive use of force; mass displacement of Muslims; internally displaced persons; lack of social cohesion or unity; quality control in conflict-related fact-finding; and international courts.

The report makes reference to the mass displacement of persons who fled to Bangladesh in 1971 and 1992, and the further cycle of violence in Rakhine State since 2012.

The ICOE has attached great importance to accessing information on the ground and collecting statements from the affected communities and witnesses of violence, as well as from various authorities.

The ICOE’s ECVTs were dispatched to Rakhine State, Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw for evidence collection. The ICOE has been able to interview about 1,500 witnesses from various communities in northern Rakhine State, including Muslims, Rakhine, Mro and Daingnet, and military and police personnel.

The ICOE concludes, on the basis of the information available to it and of the investigations carried out in northern Rakhine State and elsewhere, that war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law took place during the security operations between 25 August and 5 September 2017.

Although these serious crimes and violations were committed by multiple actors, there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of Myanmar’s security forces were involved.

The ARSA’s initial attacks – drawing on a very large number of mobilized villagers – provoked the response by Myanmar’s security forces.

The killing of innocent villagers and destruction of their homes were committed by some members of the Myanmar’s security forces through disproportionate use of force during the internal armed conflict.

There is insufficient evidence to argue, much less conclude, that the crimes committed were undertaken with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, or with any other requisite mental state for the international crime of genocide. 

The ECVT findings reveal no indication of a pattern of conduct from which one could reasonably conclude that the acts were committed with ‘genocidal intent’.

The full report counts 461 pages, including 31 annexes. Among the annexes are more than a dozen case files which provide a basis for the requisite further investigations by the Union Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Judge Advocate General. 

The Myanmar Government and Myanmar’s Defence Services must continue their respective investigations, taking into account the ECVTs’ findings.

The report also includes the map showing the attacks on 30 police outposts and stations by ARSA on 25th August 2017.

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