Amnesty International called for Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief and 12 other senior officials to be referred to the International Criminal Court over accusations of crimes against humanity on Wednesday.
Myanmar has faced international criticism and accusations of ethnic cleansing after 700,000 Rohingya in Rakhine State fled to neighbouring Bangladesh starting in August.
Widespread allegations of rape, arson, and extrajudicial killings by security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists have largely been denied by both the civilian and military parts of Myanmar’s government.
Myanmar’s military is suspected of committing nine of the 11 crimes against humanity listed in the Rome Statute of the ICC, according to the investigation from Amnesty International.
The London-based NGO called for the UN Security Council to refer the individuals to the International Criminal Court for investigation, citing evidence from a nine-month investigation.
“The explosion of violence – including murder, rape, torture, burning and forced starvation – perpetrated by Myanmar’s security forces in villages across northern Rakhine State was not the action of rogue soldiers or units,” said Matthew Wells, crisis adviser at Amnesty International.
“There is a mountain of evidence that this was part of a highly orchestrated, systematic attack on the Rohingya population,” Wells added.
The army’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing is at the top of the list, which also includes lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw and Major General Maung Maung Soe.
The international community has begun to crack down on Myanmar, but its officials have rejected accusations that the military committed crimes.
The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on seven officials over human rights violations against the Rohingya.
Min Aung Hlaing announced on Monday that Aung Kyaw Zaw resigned and Maung Maung Soe had been fired in recent weeks, for “failing to control” Rohingya militant attacks in August last year.
Judges at the International Criminal Court have already told Myanmar to respond to a prosecution request to consider hearing a case on the alleged deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh by July 27.
Government spokesperson Zaw Htay told local media this week Myanmar, which is not a ICC statute signatory, had “no reason to respond.”
A UN Security Council referral to the ICC could spark a legal case against the military officials, even though Myanmar is not a signatory.