FILE PHOTO: Smoke is seen on the Myanmar border as Rohingya refugees walk on the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. government probe into Myanmar’s campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority was not aimed at determining whether genocide or crimes against humanity had been committed, but those responsible could still be held accountable for those crimes, a top State Department official said on Thursday.
The U.S. State Department report released on Monday said Myanmar’s military waged a “well-planned and coordinated” campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Rohingya.
But it stopped short of describing the crackdown as genocide or crimes against humanity, an issue that other U.S. officials said was the subject of fierce internal debate that delayed the report’s rollout for nearly a month.
“There weren’t legal judgments expressed in it because that wasn’t the point of the report,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told a news conference in New York when asked why the report had not used the words “genocide” or “crimes against humanity.”
He added: “We are working toward holding those accountable, including judgments like the one you have offered – characterizing it as a crime against humanity or genocide.”
Sullivan spoke on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, shortly before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Kyaw Tint Swe, Myanmar’s minister for the Office of the State Counselor and its representative to the U.N. session.Pompeo did not respond to a reporter’s question about whether there had been genocide in Myanmar.
U.S. officials told Reuters earlier this week that the State Department report could be used to justify further U.S. sanctions or other punitive measures against Myanmar authorities.
The report, which was first reported by Reuters, resulted from more than a thousand interviews of Rohingya men and women in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, where almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled after a military campaign last year in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Survivors described in harrowing detail what they had witnessed, including soldiers killing infants and small children, the shooting of unarmed men, and victims buried alive or thrown into pits of mass graves. They told of widespread sexual assault by Myanmar’s military of Rohingya women, often carried out in public.
The Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay declined to comment when reached on Tuesday and said he was unable to answer questions by telephone. Calls to military spokesman Major General Tun Tun Nyi were unanswered.
Human rights groups and Rohingya activists have put the death toll in the thousands from the crackdown, which followed attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security forces in Rakhine State in August 2017.
The results of the U.S. investigation were released in low-key fashion – posted on the State Department’s website – nearly a month after U.N. investigators issued their own report accusing Myanmar’s military of acting with “genocidal intent” and calling for the country’s commander-in-chief and five generals to be prosecuted under international law.
The military in Myanmar, previously known as Burma, where Buddhism is the main religion, has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.
Senior State Department officials said the aim of the report was to guide U.S. policy aimed at holding the perpetrators accountable. The report proposed no new steps.
One official said it would be up to Pompeo whether to make such a “legal” designation in the future and did not rule out the possibility.
ICC is the only solution for those perpetrators be brought to justice so that the history of genocide of all ethnic minorities including Rohingya will never repeat again. Here is Dr Waker Uddin interview translation details who cannot understand Burmese language. Credit to Dr Haikal Mansor This is my translation of his part of statement. It is CRYSTAL CLEAR what he said. VOA: ICC states that it has jurisdiction to investigate over the forceful expulsion of Rohingya. Since Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, what do you think of the ICC fully process in investigating the situation? WAKAR UDDIN: ICC will proceed with the international law. It has its own experts. International expert must decide whether they proceed with its procedure and if not what way it be. In order not to reach that point [of ICC referral], isn’t it good they cooperate with the government of Myanmar to solve the problem? Although ICC International Expert and International lawyers [say about the prosecution at ICC], we Rohingya can solve this problem by being provided with their human rights and the status of nationality, even without reaching to it [ICC Court]. VOA: What do you think about the call for the investigation and prosecution of General Min Aung Hlaing and other generals under the international law for committing gravest crimes, described in the report of UN Fact Finding Mission? WAKAR UDDIN: Who is responsible for Crime Against Humanity? Where did the command came from – top, from the state, from the local district level? It is good to investigate according to norms. After investigating the evidence, it should state what steps should be taken. Therefore, the best way I think is to prevent reaching to that point [of ICC referral] and to quickly solve the situation. It is good for Tatmadaw [Myanmar Military]. It is good for Myanmar. It is good for the democratic government [of Myanmar]. It is good for NLD [National League for Democracy]. VOA: Do Rohingya not agree to prosecute Myanmar chain of command at ICC, do they? What do you think? WAKAR UDDIN: It’s different [in opinions]. Some Rohingya say it should continue. As I understand, the majority [of Rohingya] think that it is not good to reach to that point [of ICC Prosecution]. They want to return to their country and to their land. As far as I have talked to them, they want to go. There is no need of anything if they get their human rights, the status of nationality and the security to live. The government of Myanmar should thoroughly investigate and quickly find the answer. For Contact : Email : info@arakanpressnetwork24 firstname.lastname@example.org