NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — An independent commission established by Myanmar’s government has concluded there are reasons to believe that security forces committed war crimes in counterinsurgency operations that led more than 700,000 members of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
However, the commission, headed by a Philippine diplomat, said in a report given Monday to President Win Myint that there is no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out against the Rohingya.
The Independent Commission of Enquiry announced its findings in a press release posted on its Facebook page. It came just ahead of a decision by the United Nations’ top court, scheduled for Thursday, on a request that Myanmar be ordered to halt what has been cast as a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.
The African nation of Gambia brought legal action last year to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, alleging on behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation that genocide occurred and continues.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s top leader, strongly denied wrongdoing by government forces at the initial hearing on the case in December.
Monday’s report issued by the commission said it found no evidence of genocide. But it went further than any public statements issued by Myanmar’s government in suggesting government forces were guilty of major abuses.
“Although these serious crimes and violations were committed by multiple actors, there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of Myanmar’s security forces were involved” in war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law in 2017, it said.
“The killing of innocent villagers and destruction of their homes were committed by some members of the Myanmar’s security forces through disproportionate use of force during the internal armed conflict,” it said.
But the report points out that the security forces acted in response to deadly attacks organized by Rohingya guerrillas belonging to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army — ARSA.
The commission’s announcement said it would hand over its 461-page report to be used for investigations and possible prosecutions by Myanmar civil and military authorities.
A U.N. team also conducted a major investigation and found grounds for bringing charges of genocide.
Its members were not allowed to enter Myanmar. They did much of their work interviewing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Independent Commission of Enquiry said its investigators were dispatched to Rakhine State, where the violence occurred, Yangon and the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw “for evidence collection.” But it makes no mention of visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh.
The commission is led by senior Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo, and included retired Japanese diplomat Kenzo Oshima, Myanmar presidential adviser Aung Tun Thet and legal expert Mya Theinn,
The inclusion of the Myanmar members close to the government raised doubts about its ability to deliver a credible report, especially because separate earlier investigations by the government and military did not yield much trustworthy information.