YANGON: Plans announced by Myanmar’s military to prosecute soldiers for actions at a village where security forces reportedly killed as many as 400 Rohingya drew scepticism from the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch.
The military announced over the weekend that investigations had determined that orders were not properly followed at a village in Rakhine state.
It gave no dates or other details of the offense, but said a court martial is being convened to act “in accordance with the military discipline due to the weakness in following the instructions in some of the incidents at Gutabyin village.”
It was reported in January last year that evidence indicated that security forces had carried out a massacre in the village and that the victims were buried in at least five mass graves.
The military – known in Myanmar as the Tatmadaw – denied the report, and it is unknown if the new announcement is related to the same incident.
Human Rights Watch said on Monday that the announcement did not indicate a change of attitude by the military, which denies carrying out abuses in a self-proclaimed counter-insurgency campaign two years ago. It has said its military operations in Rakhine were justified in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
Many human rights groups have accused Myanmar of carrying out genocide or ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.
A UN fact-finding mission has documented major abuses in Rakhine since 2016, including widespread killings and torching of villages, and said its findings warrant prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity in a forum such as the International Criminal Court.
“The Tatmadaw’s decision to court-martial a few soldiers is hardly enough when we’re talking atrocities that included murder, torture, rape and arson that destroyed people and their communities.
“This court-martial looks like just another game to divert international attention by sacrificing a few low-level scapegoats, ” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, urging that it should be the military’s top commanders who face punishment.
“You can tell the Tatmadaw are not serious since they refuse to review their overall operation and hide these court-martial proceedings behind closed doors, out of sight of the public and media, ” he said.
“No one should be fooled to think this action marks any change of attitude in Myanmar’s military, which is still denying they violated the rights of the Rohingya in the first place, and seeking to evade all international accountability for their crimes.”
Myanmar has rejected the legitimacy of the UN’s fact-finding mission and asserted it is carrying out its own investigations. — AP
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