KUALA LUMPUR: The Myanmar government is guilty of genocide against the Rohingya people and other Muslim minorities, a panel of international law and human rights experts found.
The seven-member Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal announced its verdict after considering documentary and expert evidence as well as the testimony of some 200 victims of the atrocities committed against the Rohingya, Kachin and other minority groups in Myanmar.
Head judge Daniel Feierstein, who founded the Centre for Genocide Studies in Argentina, read out the findings following five days of hearing held at the Universiti Malaya Legal Faculty moot court.
The Myanmar government, he said, was indicted and found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“The tribunal ruled that Myanmar is guilty of genocide against the people of Kachin and Muslim groups there,” he said.
The tribunal also made 17 recommendations following the judgment.
Among the recommendations announced by judge Gill H. Boehringer was for the Myanmar government to cease acts of violence against the Muslim minorities.
“Visas and free access must be granted to the United Nation’s fact-finding team to probe the atrocities committed against the Rohingya, Kachin and other groups,” he said.
The Myanmar government, said Boehringer, must also amend its constitution and abolish discriminatory laws to give rights and citizenship to the oppressed minorities.
He also called on the international community to provide financial help to countries such as Bangladesh and Malaysia that were hosting the influx of refugees escaping the violence.
The tribunal’s findings, judgment and recommendations would be forwarded to international bodies and civil groups to pressure the Myanmar government to act accordingly, said Boehringer.
Organising committee chairman Dr Chandra Muzaffar hailed the verdict as a significant step towards recognising the crimes committed in Myanmar.
“The tribunal has called evil by its name by using terms such as crimes against humanity and genocide,” he said.
He said the tribunal’s findings and judgment should be used as the basis for international bodies such as Asean, the International Criminal Court and other countries to act.
The recent crisis in Rakhine, Myanmar, has resulted in over 420,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing across the border to Bangladesh.
In a speech delivered by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Manila on Thursday, Malaysia strongly questioned the manner in which Myanmar addressed the Rohingya issue, saying that the country had denied permission for the international community to provide humanitarian aid.
The tribunal was founded in Italy in 1979 and comprises 66 international members. Since it was set up, the tribunal held 43 sessions on numerous cases involving human rights and genocide.