Myanmar convictions fake: HRW

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 13:23, Jul 04,2020 | Updated: 01:32, Jul 05,2020


Myanmar’s conviction of three soldiers for abuses against Rohingya people is the government’s latest round of faux accountability, rights group Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.  

‘The sentences are a secret. Military leaders who planned the atrocities are still in power. Rohingya survivors still await justice,’ HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in a tweet.

The HRW, in a separate statement on the day, said that Myanmar’s court-martial convictions of three military personnel for crimes against ethnic Rohingya reflect ongoing government efforts to evade meaningful accountability.

Myanmar authorities have repeatedly failed to adequately investigate and prosecute grave abuses against Rohingya in Rakhine state, including crimes against humanity, it added.

The Myanmar military announced on June 30 that two officers and a soldier had been convicted for ‘weakness in following the instructions’ during the ‘Gu Dar Pyin incident’.

Rakhine state’s Gu Dar Pyin village was the site of a massacre by the military on August 27 and 28, 2017, part of its campaign of mass atrocities that forced more than 7,40,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

The military did not provide any other information, such as the names and ranks of those convicted, their role in the massacre, or their sentences.

‘Myanmar’s farcical court martial,’ Shayna Bauchner, HRW’s Asia researcher, said, ‘is the latest attempt to feign progress on accountability in an apparent attempt to influence the United Nations and international tribunals.’

Foreign governments should demand Myanmar open its doors to truly independent and impartial international investigators, she said.

Maintaining its characteristic lack of transparency, the military has not released details about the trial or the actions being taken, the HRW observed.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said the military, known as the Tatmadaw, was withholding information to avoid harming military morale.

For decades, Myanmar’s justice system has failed to address military violations of human rights and the laws of war. The military and its justice system remain outside civilian control and oversight, instead falling under the authority of the commander-in-chief.

In the sole prior convictions handed down for the 2017 abuses, seven soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison for their role in killing 10 Rohingya persons in Inn Din village. Yet in November 2018, after serving just seven months, all were released and pardoned by the commander-in-chief, Senior General  Min Aung Hlaing.

This latest case underscores the Myanmar government’s longstanding efforts to conceal military crimes with hollow admissions of wrongdoing and claims of justice. Both the military and the civilian governments have been unwilling to investigate widespread abuses against Rohingya in Rakhine state since 2012.

In response to international attention, the government has set up a series of commissions intended to stave off calls for action, rather than prosecute those responsible or advance justice, the HRW observed.

Bangladesh has been hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya people for years as two attempts to launch the repatriation on the grounds failed since the signing of agreements with Myanmar over two and a half years ago on sending them to their home in Rakhine.

Over 7,00,000 Rohingya people crossed the border into Bangladesh in the last influx that began on August 25, 2017 amid atrocities of the Myanmar military. 

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