Human Rights Watch has appealed to the United Nations to impose sanctions and arms embargo against Myanmar because it is committing crimes against humanity due to its atrocities against Muslim insurgents in Rakhine state.
However, the Myanmar government has rejected accusations that its forces are engaged in ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in response to coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on the security forces on Aug. 25.
Myanmar says its forces are fighting terrorists responsible for attacking the police and the army, killing civilians and torching villages. The military campaign has sent nearly 440,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, most of them Rohingya. They have accused the security forces and Buddhist vigilantes of trying to drive Rohingya out of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
“The Burmese military is brutally expelling the Rohingya from northern Rakhine State,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “The massacres of villagers and mass arson driving people from their homes are all crimes against humanity.”
The International Criminal Court defines crimes against humanity as acts including murder, torture, rape and deportation “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack”.
Human Rights Watch said its research, supported by analysis of satellite imagery, had found crimes of deportation and forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder, rape and other sexual assault and persecution. “Attaching a legal label to the ghastly crimes … may seem inconsequential,” Ross said. “But global recognition that crimes against humanity are taking place should stir the U.N. and concerned governments to action.”