NAYPYITAW: 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 compelled more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

However, the commission headed by a Philippine diplomat said in a report given to President Win Myint that there was no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out against the Rohingya.

The Independent Commission of Enquiry announced its findings in a statement posted on its Facebook page and the full report did not appear to have been publicly released. Nevertheless, 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, the report 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.

The statement came 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 described as a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.

Gambia brought legal action last year to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, alleging on behalf of the 57-country Orga­nisation 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.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2020