Government supports prosecuting soldiers over Rohingya killings

President Win Myint will support prosecutions against members of the military for human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine state in 2016 and 2017, his office announced on Tuesday.

The announcement followed the release of a report, the full version of which has not been made public, by a nominally independent panel into the violence.

The government formed the Independent Commission Of Enquiry (ICOE) in response to accusations of mass killings, rape and arson that UN experts said were committed with ‘genocidal intent’.

But the commission’s report echoed the government’s belief that the violence did not amount to genocide, and rights groups have condemned it as an attempt to shield senior members of the military from justice.

“The President concurs with the recommendations of the Commission that there needs to be further criminal investigations,” the President’s Office statement read.

It also suggested that soldiers should be prosecuted for abuses, including killings in the village of Tula Toli, where more than 500 are believed to have been massacred.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said the commission “seems willing to blame individual soldiers for abuses but not the commanders” who the UN and others found were responsible for

“systematic atrocities against the Rohingya.”

The head of the four-member commission, Philippines diplomat Rosario Manalo, said when the panel was formed in 2018 that it would not pursue accountability as part of its work, Robertson noted.

“This is yet another Myanmar commission set up to deny and dismiss credible findings of the decades-long and ongoing genocide of our Rohingya people,” said Nay San Lwin, an activist with the Free Rohingya Coalition.

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