NEW YORK: The United Nations Security Council should refer Myanmar, also known as Burma, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of its failure to investigate mass atrocities against ethnic Rohingya, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

UN member countries should also pursue processes for gathering criminal evidence to advance prosecutions in the ICC and other courts, the New York-based watchdog group said.

Myanmar authorities have failed to credibly investigate security force operations since late August that have resulted in mass arson, killing, rape and looting, destroying hundreds of villages and forcing more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to the neighbouring Bangladesh.

HRW’s field research found that Myanmar military abuses amount to crimes against humanity.

“Justice is desperately needed for the Rohingya population targeted by the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing,” said Param Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

“The UN Security Council should refer the situation in Burma to the ICC, which was created precisely to address situations in which grave crimes were committed without consequences.”

The Myanmar government’s support both for the military operations against the Rohingya and its repeated discounting and dismissal of alleged abuses make it extremely unlikely that the government will press for the credible investigation and prosecution of crimes against humanity, HRW said in the press statement.

Historically, courts in Myanmar have tried soldiers for human rights violations only infrequently and have never held soldiers to account for war crimes. Civilian courts have rarely had jurisdiction over soldiers implicated in criminal offences, HRW said.

In April, the UN Human Rights Council created a fact-finding mission for Myanmar because of credible and serious allegations of human rights abuses. While the mission will document patterns of abuse, it does not have the mandate to investigate abuses to a criminal standard, though its findings could be used in eventual prosecutions.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2017

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