ICOE finds war crimes by Myanmar forces; denies ‘genocidal intent’

20 January 2020

Displaced Rohingya people at a makeshift camp in Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar. File photo –

The Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) in Myanmar submitted its final report on Monday noting that war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law took place during the security operations between August 25 and September 5, 2017, reports UNB.

The report, however, claimed that findings reveal “no indication” of a pattern of conduct from which one could reasonably conclude that the acts were committed with ‘genocidal intent’, according to the Office of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE).​

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, the report claimed.

The ICOE came up with its final report when the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’ highest court, is scheduled to deliver its decision on the provisional measures requested by The Gambia in its genocide case against Myanmar on January 23.

Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s (ARSA’s) “initial attacks” – drawing on a very large number of mobilised villagers – provoked the response by Myanmar’s security forces, the ICOE report reads.

It claimed that 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.

The ICOE’s final report covers the context and historical background of Rakhine State; the inter-communal violence of 2012, and armed conflict of 2016 and 2017; findings of the ICOE’s Evidence Collection and Verification Team (ECVT); measures to establish accountability; principal observations; and 22 recommendations.

The principal observations of the ICOE concern the following topics: wide gaps in the narratives; allegations of human rights violations, ‘ethnic cleansing’, and ‘genocide’; disproportionate or excessive use of force; mass displacement of Muslims; internally displaced persons; lack of social cohesion or unity; quality control in conflict-related fact-finding; and international courts.

The ICOE held its 15th meeting on Monday in Nay Pyi Taw for the last time before submitting its final report.

The ICOE signed and submitted its final report to Win Myint, President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar at the Presidential Palace, Nay Pyi Taw, in the presence of Union Ministers for the Office of the State Counsellor and Office of the Union Government.

The ICOE also met Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

The report makes a reference to the mass displacement of persons who fled to Bangladesh in 1971 and 1992, and the further cycle of violence in Rakhine State since 2012.

The full report analyses in detail the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s (ARSA’s) attacks and the subsequent response by Myanmar’s Defence Services and Police Force from 25 August to 5 September 2017. It shows that the scale of armed violence was such that there was an internal armed conflict.

The ICOE has not found any evidence suggesting that these killings or acts of displacement were committed pursuant to an intent or plan to destroy the Muslim or any other community in northern Rakhine State, the report added.

“There’s insufficient evidence to argue, much less conclude, that the crimes committed were undertaken with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, or with any other requisite mental state for the international crime of genocide,” the ICOE report reads.

The report mentioned that the ECVT findings reveal no indication of a pattern of conduct from which one could reasonably conclude that the acts were committed with ‘genocidal intent’.​

The full report counts 461 pages, including 31 annexes. Among the annexes are more than a dozen case files which provide a basis for the requisite further investigations by the Union Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Judge Advocate General.

The Myanmar government and Myanmar’s Defence Services must continue their respective investigations, taking into account the ECVTs’ findings, it said.


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