Independent probe on Myanmar massacre urged

Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village in this Sept. 2, 2017 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Independent probe on Myanmar massacre urged

LONDON: A Reuters investigation into the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar prompted a demand from Washington for a credible probe into the bloodshed there and calls for the release of two journalists who were arrested while working on the report.
The special report, published overnight, lays out events leading up to the killing of 10 Rohingya men from Inn Din village in Rakhine state who were buried in a mass grave after being hacked to death or shot by Buddhist neighbors and soldiers.
“As with other, previous reports of mass graves, this report highlights the ongoing and urgent need for Burmese authorities to cooperate with an independent, credible investigation into allegations of atrocities in northern Rakhine,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
“Such an investigation would help provide a more comprehensive picture of what happened, clarify the identities of the victims, identify those responsible for human rights abuses and violations, and advance efforts for justice and accountability,” she said.
The UN on Friday described the details of the Reuters report as “alarming” and said that it showed the need for a “full and thorough investigation” into the violence in Rakhine state.
The Myanmar mission to the UN was not immediately available for comment.
The Reuters report drew on interviews with Buddhists who confessed to torching Rohingya homes, burying bodies and killing Muslims in what they said was a frenzy of violence triggered when Rohingya insurgents attacked security posts last August.
The account marked the first time soldiers and paramilitary police have been implicated by testimony from security personnel in arson and killings in the north of Rakhine state that the United Nations has said may amount to genocide.
In the story, Myanmar said its “clearance operation” is a legitimate response to attacks by insurgents.
Asked about the evidence Reuters had uncovered about the massacre, Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay said on Thursday, before publication of the report: “We are not denying the allegations about violations of human rights. And we are not giving blanket denials.”
If there was “strong and reliable primary evidence” of abuses, the government would investigate, he said.
There was no comment from the government following the publication of the report.
Nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled their villages and crossed the border of western Myanmar into Bangladesh since August.
British Labour Party lawmaker Rosena Allin-Khan told BBC’s Newsnight that the Reuters report was consistent with accounts she had heard while working as a doctor at Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh last year.
“We’ve been bystanders to a genocide,” she said. “This evidence marks a turning point because, for the first time since this all started to unfold in August, we have heard from the perpetrators themselves.”
She said that, as well as an international probe, there needed to be a referral to the International Criminal Court.
Human Rights Watch said Myanmar’s military leaders should be held accountable in an international court for alleged crimes against the Rohingya population.
“As more evidence comes out about the pre-planning and intent of the Myanmar armed forces to wipe out Rohingya villages and their inhabitants, the international community ... needs to focus on how to hold the country’s military leaders accountable,” said HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.
Campaign group Fortify Rights also called for an independent investigation.
“The international community needs to stop stalling and do what’s necessary to hold accountable those who are responsible before evidence is tainted or lost, memories fade, and more people suffer,” said the group’s chief executive Matthew Smith.
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said in a tweet: “During the reporting of this article, two Reuters journalists were arrested by Myanmar police. They remain held & must absolutely be released.”
Yanghee Lee, the UN human rights investigator for Myanmar who has been barred from visiting the Rohingya areas, echoed that call and added in a tweet: “Independent & credible investigation needed to get to the bottom of the Inn Din massacre.”


Cambodia genocide verdict a signal to other perpetrators: US

The historic verdict comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia following a four-year reign of terror that left about a quarter of the population dead. (AP)
Updated 17 November 2018
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Cambodia genocide verdict a signal to other perpetrators: US

  • A war crimes tribunal in Cambodia found the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 92, guilty of genocide on Friday
  • Let this be a message to other perpetrators of mass atrocities: US State Department

PHNOM PENH: The US has welcomed Cambodia’s landmark genocide verdict and said it served as a warning that perpetrators of mass atrocities, “even those at the highest levels,” will eventually face justice for their crimes.
A war crimes tribunal in Cambodia found the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 92, guilty of genocide on Friday and sentenced them to life in prison.
The historic verdict comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia following a four-year reign of terror that left about a quarter of the population dead from starvation, mass executions, and overwork.
“Their crimes were numerous, calculated, and grave,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, commending the courage of the victims and witnesses who testified during the trial.
“Let this be a message to other perpetrators of mass atrocities, even those at the highest levels, including former heads of state, that such actions will not be tolerated and they will ultimately be brought to justice,” she said in a statement.
Cambodia’s neighbor Myanmar has come under fire in recent months for its handling of the Rohingya crisis, which United Nations investigators believe amounts to “genocide” given the atrocities perpetrated on the stateless Muslim minority.
Myanmar has denied the allegations but UN investigators have urged that the case be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation and prosecution.
Despite the show of support for war crimes prosecution, the US is one of the few Western countries that is not signed up to the ICC, which has a mandate to investigate the gravest offenses including genocide and crimes against humanity.
The country’s refusal to be party to the body erupted again following an ICC request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and threatened to arrest and sanction judges and other officials of the court if it moved to charge any American.