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The Intensifying Rohingya Genocide

June 26th, 2024  •  Author:   Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK  •  7 minute read
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Executive Summary

The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) provisional measures order to protect the Rohingya has now been in place for four-and-a-half years. The order was issued as part of the ongoing genocide case brought by The Gambia against Myanmar. This latest report is the ninth in our series highlighting repeated, sustained breaches of the Court’s order with zero consequences for the Myanmar military. It covers the period 13 November 2023 – 23 May 2024, from the start of renewed armed conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine State up to the most recent six-month deadline for the military Myanmar military to comply with reporting obligations to the Court, to demonstrate the steps it has taken to protect the Rohingya.

The complete lack of consequences to date for the Myanmar military’s pervasive breaches of the ICJ’s order contrast sharply with the dire consequences faced by the Rohingya. In the past six months alone, hundreds if not several thousands more Rohingya have been killed. The report sets out how Rohingya have been targeted as part of the Myanmar military’s intensifying genocide against the group, against the backdrop of a brutal and increasingly complex war in Rakhine State between the Myanmar military and its proxies, and the Arakan Army.

Successive military dictatorships have progressively stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship documents, and the protections and rights that citizenship bestows. All 600,000 Rohingya in Rakhine State continue to live under wide-ranging restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by the Myanmar military. 140,000 Rohingya confined to camps are living under a state of indefinite arbitrary detention. These two factors leave the Rohingya uniquely vulnerable during times of armed conflict in Rakhine State. If they flee the fighting, they risk arrest and imprisonment by the Myanmar military authorities for travelling without documents or prior authorisation.

The Myanmar military has continued to perpetrate the genocidal act known as ‘slow death’, which involves deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part of the Rohingya group. This includes the deliberate deprivation of resources indispensable for survival – namely adequate food, water, shelter, sanitation and medical care – by the Myanmar military. The severe restrictions on freedom of movement imposed on the Rohingya underpin this act. These ‘slow death’ conditions have resulted in the preventable deaths of at least 86 Rohingya in the camps in Sittwe, most of them children.

The Myanmar military has deliberately exploited the vulnerability of the Rohingya living under these deplorable conditions of life. In February, the Myanmar military announced the enforcement of the People’s Military Service Law. Young Rohingya men were the first group targeted by the Myanmar military for forced recruitment, even though the Myanmar military itself does not regard Rohingya as citizens. There is no legal basis for conscription of Rohingya.

The Myanmar military has forcibly recruited Rohingya men and youth, including minors, by abducting them from their homes, villages, markets, some during night raids and often at gunpoint. Once conscripted, Rohingya have been subjected to forced labour and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, then sent to the frontlines in Rakhine State to be used as cannon fodder. The Myanmar military’s treatment of forcibly recruited Rohingya may constitute the genocidal act of causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group. Several thousand Rohingya men and youth are believed to have been forcibly recruited within Rakhine State, and hundreds are feared to have already been killed.

At the same time as Rohingya men are being forcibly recruited into the Myanmar military and sent to the frontlines, Rohingya communities have been ordered to take part in anti-Arakan Army protests planned and orchestrated by the Myanmar military. Rohingya have faced various forms of coercion to participate, including fines, and threats of cutting off access to markets, mass arrests, and shelling of their villages.

As part of its divide-and-rule strategy in Rakhine State – which ensures that Rohingya are firmly in the crosshairs of the Arakan Army – the Myanmar military has been working in consort with Rohingya armed militia, once its sworn enemies. Rohingya men and boys have been abducted from the refugee camps in Bangladesh by criminal militia gangs Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, Arakan Rohingya Army, and Rohingya Solidarity Organisation and handed over to the Myanmar military. As many as 1,500 Rohingya refugees are reported to have been taken to Rakhine State to fight for the Myanmar military and its proxies. The Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) and other Rohingya organisations have denounced these groups as criminal gangs who do not represent Rohingya communities.

The Myanmar military’s actions to incite hatred and violence towards the Rohingya and to deliberately intensify a hostile environment conducive to atrocity crimes must be recognised. Forcibly recruiting Rohingya and sending them into battle with the Arakan Army, and coercing Rohingya into taking part in anti-Arakan Army protests, have put members of the Rohingya group at grave risk. The Myanmar military’s genocidal intent towards the Rohingya can be further inferred from its role in inciting hatred and violence against the Rohingya, and its abject failure to prevent the commission of atrocity crimes by the Arakan Army.

Over the reporting period, the Myanmar military, its proxies, and the Arakan Army have committed likely war crimes against Rohingya communities, including murder, torture, cruel treatment, extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, rape, taking hostages, conscripting and using children, pillaging, attacking civilians, and attacking protected objects, summarised in this report. These alleged international crimes must be thoroughly investigated, and the perpetrators held accountable.

200,000 Rohingya internally displaced in northern Rakhine State are now in dire need of international humanitarian aid to prevent further loss of life. 110,000 Rohingya – half of them children – are currently trapped in Sittwe township, surrounded by landmines and unable to flee as the conflict edges closer to the city. Rohingya conscripts already living under conditions of indefinite arbitrary detention in Sittwe are at serious risk of being used as cannon fodder by the Myanmar military in the event of a battle with the Arakan Army over the city.

In the face of the renewed threats of irreparable harm to the Rohingya group detailed in this report, the Court must urgently respond by amending the existing order or indicating further provisional measures to protect the Rohingya. These include – but should not be limited to – instructing Myanmar to immediately halt conscription of Rohingya into its armed forces or allied militias and end its practice of coercing Rohingya to participate in anti-Arakan Army/pro-Myanmar military rallies.

The international community cannot afford to fail the Rohingya yet again. There must be concerted international public pressure for an open meeting of the UN Security Council to frankly discuss the Myanmar military’s repeated breaches of the ICJ’s provisional measures order over the past four-and-a-half years. All relevant organs of the United Nations must make consistent efforts to leverage the ICJ’s provisional measures order within their own mandates, to seek urgent protection for the Rohingya and end the cycle of impunity in Myanmar, including support for the referral of the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or the creation of an ad hoc international tribunal.

Enduring peace and security in Myanmar and justice for the Rohingya are intertwined. This must include recognition of Rohingya identity and citizenship, which should be a touchstone policy for any transitional government and all relevant actors in Myanmar, including the Arakan Army. Rohingya simply want peaceful co-existence between Rohingya and Rakhine communities, on equal terms, rooted in dignity, respect, and protection for the Rohingya identity and their individual and collective rights.

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