39/64 Report of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar
Human Rights Council Thirty-ninth session
10–28 September 2018 Agenda item 4
Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
Report of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar*
The Human Rights Council established the independent international fact-finding
mission on Myanmar in its resolution 34/22. In accordance with its mandate, the mission
focused on the situation in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States since 2011. It also
examined the infringement of fundamental freedoms, including the rights to freedom of
expression, assembly and peaceful association, and the question of hate speech.
The mission established consistent patterns of serious human rights violations and
abuses in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, in addition to serious violations of
international humanitarian law. These are principally committed by the Myanmar
security forces, particularly the military. Their operations are based on policies, tactics
and conduct that consistently fail to respect international law, including by deliberately
targeting civilians. Many violations amount to the gravest crimes under international
law. In the light of the pervasive culture of impunity at the domestic level, the mission
finds that the impetus for accountability must come from the international community. It
makes concrete recommendations to that end, including that named senior generals of
the Myanmar military should be investigated and prosecuted in an international criminal
tribunal for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
* The present report was submitted after the deadline in order to reflect the most recent developments.
United Nations A/HRC/39/64
I. Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 3
II. Mandate and methodology ............................................................................................................ 3
A. Mandate ................................................................................................................................ 3
B. Methodology ......................................................................................................................... 3
C. Legal framework ................................................................................................................... 4
III. Context .......................................................................................................................................... 4
IV. Emblematic situations ................................................................................................................... 5
A. Rakhine State ........................................................................................................................ 5
B. Kachin and Shan States......................................................................................................... 11
C. Fundamental freedoms .......................................................................................................... 14
V. Hallmarks of Tatmadaw operations .............................................................................................. 14
A. Targeting of civilians ............................................................................................................ 15
B. Sexual violence ..................................................................................................................... 15
C. Exclusionary rhetoric ............................................................................................................ 15
D. Impunity................................................................................................................................ 15
VI. Crimes under international law ..................................................................................................... 16
A. Genocide ............................................................................................................................... 16
B. Crimes against humanity ...................................................................................................... 16
C. War crimes ............................................................................................................................ 17
VII. Responsibility ................................................................................................................................ 17
VIII. Accountability ............................................................................................................................... 18
IX. Conclusions and recommendations ............................................................................................... 19
1. In its resolution 34/22, the Human Rights Council established the independent
international fact-finding mission on Myanmar. The President of the Council appointed
Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) as chair, and Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka) and
Christopher Sidoti (Australia) as members. A secretariat was recruited by the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
2. The mission presented an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-sixth
session, and an oral interim report at its thirty-seventh session; it also delivered a video
statement to the Council at its twenty-seventh special session, on 5 December 2017. The
mission submits the present report to the Council pursuant to its decision 36/115.1
3. The mission regrets the lack of cooperation from the Government of Myanmar,
despite the appeals made by the Human Rights Council and the mission. The mission
addressed a letter to the Government on 4 September and 17 November 2017 and 29
January 2018 to request in-country access. It forwarded a detailed list of questions on 27
March 2018. Although the mission had limited informal contact with government
representatives, it received no official response to its letters. The mission shared the present
report with the Government prior to its public release. No response was received.
II. Mandate and methodology
4. In its resolution 34/22, the Human Rights Council mandated the mission to establish
the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and
security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State, with a view to
ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.
5. The mission focused on the situation in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States since 2011,
namely, since the resumption of hostilities in Kachin State and escalation in Shan State in
2011, and the outbreak of major violence in Rakhine State in 2012. These events were
turning points, generating renewed allegations of serious human rights violations and
abuses. The mission selected several significant incidents for in-depth fact-finding,
allowing detailed findings on specific allegations of violations and abuses, while revealing
broader patterns of conduct. Serious allegations have also arisen in other contexts, meriting
6. Factual findings are based on the “reasonable grounds” standard of proof. This
standard was met when a sufficient and reliable body of primary information, consistent
with other information, would allow an ordinarily prudent person to reasonably conclude
that an incident or pattern of conduct occurred.
7. The mission amassed a vast amount of primary information. It conducted 875 in-
depth interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, both targeted and randomly selected. It
obtained satellite imagery and authenticated a range of documents, photographs and videos.
It checked this information against secondary information assessed as credible and reliable,
including the raw data or notes of organizations, expert interviews, submissions and open-
source material. Specialized advice was sought on sexual and gender-based violence, child
psychology, military affairs and forensics. The mission relied only on verified and
1 The findings and recommendations of the mission are detailed in document A/HRC/39/CRP.2.
8. To collect information, the members of the mission travelled to Bangladesh,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland. The secretariat undertook numerous additional field missions between September
2017 and July 2018. The mission also held over 250 consultations with other stakeholders,
including intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, researchers and
diplomats, either in person and remotely. It received written submissions, including some in
response to a public call.
9. The mission strictly adhered to the principles of independence, impartiality and
objectivity. It sought consent from sources on the use of information, ensuring
confidentiality as appropriate. Specific attention was paid to the protection of victims and
witnesses, considering their well-founded fear of reprisals. The mission expresses its grave
concern at the intimidation and threats faced by persons cooperating with the mechanisms
of the Human Rights Council examining the situation in Myanmar. It urges Myanmar to
protect human rights defenders.
C. Legal framework
10. The mission assessed facts in the light of international human rights law,
international humanitarian law and international criminal law, as applicable in Myanmar. In
addition to non-international armed conflicts in Kachin and Shan States, the mission
considered that the violence in Rakhine State between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation
Army (ARSA) and the Myanmar security forces constituted a non-international armed
conflict, at least since 25 August 2017.2
11. A succession of military regimes have ruled Myanmar since 1962. In 2008, a new
Constitution was adopted, designed by the military to retain its dominant role in politics
and governance. It instituted a system of government with military and civilian components.
The Tatmadaw (armed forces) appoints 25 per cent of seats in both legislative bodies, and
selects candidates for three key ministerial posts (Defence, Border Affairs and Home
Affairs), and at least one of two Vice-Presidents. This is sufficient to control the National
Defence and Security Council and the entire security apparatus, and to block constitutional
amendments. The Tatmadaw has the right to administer and adjudicate its affairs
independently, without civilian oversight. Current or former military officers occupy
positions of authority across all branches of government, within the civil service and the
judiciary, and in many State-owned enterprises. In 2010, the Government led by Thein Sein
embarked on wide-ranging reforms towards political and economic liberalization, without
amending the Constitution. The National League for Democracy won the election held in
November 2015, and a Government led by that party took office on 31 March 2016.
Sanctions were lifted and foreign investment welcomed.
12. In addition to the Bamar, Myanmar includes other ethnic groups that constitute 32
per cent of the estimated population.3 Since independence, the numerous ethnically-based
armed conflicts have been used by the Tatmadaw to justify its power, presenting itself as
the guarantor of national unity. Several groups hold deep-rooted grievances, struggling for
greater autonomy and an equitable sharing of natural resources. While Governments have
made overtures towards negotiated peace agreements, hostilities have continued. These
conflicts indicate that the nation-building efforts of the military have failed: there is no
unifying “Myanmar” national identity, and resentment against Bamar-Buddhist domination
has only grown. Notably, under military rule, the concept of “national races” has gradually
2 Assessment in line with that of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). See for
example, ICRC, “Rakhine: Returns must be safe, dignified and voluntary”, speech by the ICRC
President at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore, 2 June 2018.
3 See 2014 Population and Housing Census of Myanmar (available from
become the key criterion for membership in the country’s political community, creating a
common “other”. The military regime has constructed eight major ethnic groups, broken
down further into 135 “national races”. The list defines those who “belong” in Myanmar;
all others, regardless of how many generations they have lived in Myanmar, are considered
outsiders or immigrants. This includes the Rohingya. 4 According to the Tatmadaw,
“Despite living among peacocks, crows cannot become peacocks.”5
13. According to the 2014 census, 87.9 per cent of the population of Myanmar is
Buddhist, 6.2 per cent Christian, and 4.3 per cent Muslim. While the Bamar are
predominantly Buddhist, many other ethnic groups contain large numbers of non-Buddhists.
Attempts in the 1960s to designate Buddhism as the State religion were divisive. The
Constitution adopted in 2008 recognizes the “special position” of Buddhism, while
acknowledging other religions. Since reforms began in 2011, Myanmar has seen an
increase in Buddhist nationalism, virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence between
Buddhists and Muslims. Among the largest Buddhist nationalist organizations is the
Association for the Protection of Race and Religion (known also as “MaBaTha”), which
cast itself as the protector of Buddhism. While MaBaTha was nominally disbanded, its
successors are still widely supported.
14. Today, the Tatmadaw enjoys greater popularity among the Bamar-Buddhist majority.
The violence, particularly the “Rohingya crisis”, has been used by the military to reaffirm
itself as the protector of a nation under threat and to cement its political role further. This is
remarkable considering its appalling human rights record and the long struggle of the
democracy movement against its rule. Myanmar has been a country of concern for the
United Nations for 30 years, with resolutions condemning its human rights situation since
1991. For three decades, successive special rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in
Myanmar concluded that patterns of human rights violations were widespread and
systematic, linked to State and military policy. Allegations of gross human rights violations
have continued since 2011 and were the focus of the mission.
IV. Emblematic situations
15. The mission focused on three emblematic situations: the crisis in Rakhine State; the
hostilities in Kachin and Shan States; and the infringement on the exercise of fundamental
freedoms and the issue of hate speech.
A. Rakhine State
16. Rakhine State has a poverty rate nearly twice the national average. All communities
in Rakhine suffer from poor social services and a scarcity of livelihood opportunities. The
State’s two largest groups are the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims; the
former constitutes the majority; the latter, the majority in the north. There are several other
ethnic minorities, including the Kaman Muslims. The problems in Rakhine State are often
ascribed to poor relations between the Rohingya and the Rakhine, reflective of deeply-
rooted grievances and prejudices. Nonetheless, the majority of Rohingya and Rakhine
interviewed by the mission indicated that relationships with the other community had been
good prior to 2012, citing examples of business dealings and friendships.
4 The mission is conscious of the sensitivity concerning the term “Rohingya” in Myanmar, where the
group is generally referred to as “Bengali”. The term is used in the present report in accordance with
the right to self-identify.
5 “Myanmar Politics and the Tatmadaw”, Tatmadaw, Directorate of the Public Relations and
Psychological Warfare, 2018, p. 115.
1. Violations against ethnic Rakhine
I want to share my story with the whole world because the world does not know
what is happening in our place.6
17. The members of the mission spoke with many ethnic Rakhine, who highlighted
serious human rights violations perpetrated by the Myanmar security forces against them.
These violations are similar to those experienced by other ethnic groups in Myanmar.
18. The Tatmadaw used Rakhine men, women and children for forced or compulsory
labour, mostly for “portering”. Other violations included forced evictions through land
confiscation, arbitrary arrest and detention, and violations of the rights to life, to physical
and mental integrity, and to property. Tatmadaw soldiers also subjected Rakhine women to
sexual violence, often in the context of forced labour; for example, one victim explained
how, in 2017, she was taken to a military base, beaten and raped by a Tatmadaw captain.
19. The mission also received reports of repressive action against the assertion of
Rakhine identity. For example, in January 2018, the police used excessive force in
dispersing a demonstration in Mrauk-U against the cancellation of an annual ethnic
Rakhine event, killing seven protestors.
2. Systemic oppression and persecution of the Rohingya
In Rakhine State, Muslims are like in a cage, they cannot travel outside. There are
no human rights for the Muslims of Rakhine. I don’t know why God sent us there.
20. The process of “othering” the Rohingya and their discriminatory treatment began
long before 2012. The extreme vulnerability of the Rohingya is a consequence of State
policies and practices implemented over decades, steadily marginalizing them. The result is
a continuing situation of severe, systemic and institutionalized oppression from birth to
21. The cornerstone of the above-mentioned oppression is lack of legal status.
Successive laws and policies regulating citizenship and political rights have become
increasingly exclusionary in their formulation, and arbitrary and discriminatory in their
application. Most Rohingya have become de facto stateless, arbitrarily deprived of
nationality. This cannot be resolved through the citizenship law of 1982, applied as
proposed by the Government through a citizenship verification process. The core issue is
the prominence of the concept of “national races” and the accompanying exclusionary
rhetoric, originating under the dictatorship of Ne Win in the 1960s. The link between
“national races” and citizenship has had devastating consequences for the Rohingya.
22. The displacement of Rohingya in the 1970s and 1990s, in the context of the military
regime’s implementation of this exclusionary vision, were earlier markers. Observers,
including United Nations human rights mechanisms and civil society, have alerted the
Myanmar authorities and the international community to a looming catastrophe for decades.
23. The travel of Rohingya between villages, townships and outside Rakhine State has
long been restricted on the basis of a discriminatory travel authorization system. This has
had serious consequences for economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to
food, health and education. The degree of malnutrition witnessed in northern Rakhine State
has been alarming. Other discriminatory restrictions include procedures for marriage
authorization, restrictions on the number and spacing of children, and the denial of equal
access to birth registration for Rohingya children. For decades, security forces have
subjected Rohingya to widespread theft and extortion. Arbitrary arrest, forced labour, ill-
treatment and sexual violence have been prevalent.
6 Quotes are from victim interviews, unless stated otherwise.
3. Violence in 2012
We cried when we left; 25 years of hard work lost. My time is almost finished, but
what will happen to my children and grandchildren?
24. In this context, two waves of violence swept Rakhine State, in June and in October
2012, affecting 12 townships. The murder, and alleged rape, of a Rakhine woman and the
killing of 10 Muslim pilgrims are commonly presented as key triggers. According to the
government inquiry commission, the violence left 192 people dead, 265 injured and 8,614
houses destroyed. Actual numbers are likely much higher. Further violence broke out in
Thandwe in 2013.
25. Although the Government’s depiction of the violence as “intercommunal” between
the Rohingya and the Rakhine has prevailed, it is inaccurate. While there certainly was
violence between Rohingya and Rakhine groups, resulting in killing and the destruction of
property, these attacks were not spontaneous outbursts of hostility; they resulted from a
plan to instigate violence and amplify tensions. A campaign of hate and dehumanization of
the Rohingya had been under way for months, and escalated after 8 June 2012, led by the
Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), various Rakhine organizations, radical
Buddhist monk organizations, and several officials and influential figures. It was spread
through anti-Rohingya or anti-Muslim publications, public statements, rallies and the
boycott of Muslim shops. The Rohingya were labelled “illegal immigrants” and “terrorists”,
and portrayed as an existential threat that might “swallow other races” with their
“incontrollable birth rates”. In November 2012, the RNDP, in Toe Thet Yay, an official
publication, cited Hitler, arguing that “inhuman acts” were sometimes necessary to
“maintain a race”.
26. Myanmar security forces were at least complicit, often failing to intervene to stop
the violence, or actively participated. They injured, killed and tortured Rohingya and
destroyed their properties. Witnesses from Sittwe and Kyaukpyu described cases of security
forces preventing Rohingya or Kaman from extinguishing houses set on fire by Rakhine,
including by gunfire. Witnesses from Maungdaw described security forces shooting
indiscriminately at Rohingya and conducting mass arbitrary arrests, including of Rohingya
workers from non-governmental organizations. Large groups were transferred to
Buthidaung prison, where they faced inhuman conditions and torture. Prisoners were beaten
by prison guards and fellow Rakhine detainees, some fatally.
27. The violence in 2012 marked a turning point in Rakhine State: the relationship
between the Rakhine and Rohingya deteriorated; fear and mistrust grew. Although the
Kaman are a recognized ethnic group, they were targeted alongside the Rohingya as
Muslims, and have since suffered increasing discrimination and marginalization.
28. The Government responded to the violence by an increased presence of security
forces and enforced segregation of communities. A state of emergency declared on 10 June
2012 was lifted only in March 2016. Township authorities in Rakhine State imposed a
curfew and prohibited public gatherings of more than five people. These restrictions remain
in force today in Maungdaw and Buthidaung and have been applied in a discriminatory
manner against the Rohingya. They have an impact on freedom of religion, as people are
prevented from praying collectively in mosques.
29. The violence displaced more than 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya. The few
thousand displaced ethnic Rakhine were able to return or were resettled by the Government.
Six years after the violence, 128,000 Rohingya and Kaman remain segregated, confined in
camps and displacement sites, without freedom of movement, access to sufficient food,
adequate health care, education or livelihoods. The displaced are prevented from returning
to their place of origin. Such confinement exceeds any justifiable security measure and
constitutes arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Other Rohingya in central Rakhine, including
those resettled, also face severe restrictions, including on freedom of movement, which has
an impact on daily life.
30. The violence exacerbated the oppression of the Rohingya. Movement outside
Rakhine State became even more difficult. Rohingya students have not been able to enrol at
Sittwe University since 2012; their access to higher education has been effectively removed.
This is a violation of the right to education, and a powerful tool to ensure cross-generational
marginalization. Although Rohingya were allowed to vote in 2010, the right was revoked
prior to the elections in 2015. The oppressive climate led to an increase in Rohingya
leaving Rakhine State by boat in the following years.
4. 25 August 2017 and the “clearance operations”
That day felt like the last day of this world, as if the whole world was collapsing. I
thought judgment day had arrived.
31. What happened on 25 August 2017 and the following days and weeks was the
realization of a disaster long in the making. It was the result of the systemic oppression of
the Rohingya, the violence of 2012, and the Government’s actions and omissions since then.
It caused the disintegration of a community.
32. In the early hours of 25 August, ARSA launched coordinated attacks on a military
base and up to 30 security force outposts across northern Rakhine State, in an apparent
response to increased pressure on Rohingya communities and with the goal of global
attention. A small number of minimally-trained leaders had some arms, and a significant
number of untrained villagers wielded sticks and knives. Some had improvised explosive
devices. Twelve security personnel were killed.
33. The response of security forces, launched within hours, was immediate, brutal and
grossly disproportionate. Ostensibly to eliminate the “terrorist threat” posed by ARSA, in
the days and weeks that followed, it encompassed hundreds of villages across Maungdaw,
Buthidaung and Rathedaung. The operations targeted and terrorized the entire Rohingya
population. The authorities called them “clearance operations”. As a result, by mid-August
2018, nearly 725,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh.
34. Even though the operations were conducted over a broad geographic area, they were
strikingly similar. Tatmadaw soldiers would attack a village in the early hours, frequently
joined by other security forces, often by Rakhine men and sometimes men from other
ethnic minorities. The operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people
woken by intense rapid weapon fire, explosions or the shouts and screams of villagers.
Structures were set ablaze, and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into
houses and fields, and at villagers.
35. The nature, scale and organization of the operations suggest a level of preplanning
and design by the Tatmadaw leadership that was consistent with the vision of the
Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who stated in a Facebook post on
2 September 2018, at the height of the operations, that “the Bengali problem was a long-
standing one which has become an unfinished job despite the efforts of the previous
governments to solve it. The government in office is taking great care in solving the
(a) Human rights catastrophe
Everyone was just running for their lives. I was not even able to carry my children.
36. The “clearance operations” constituted a human rights catastrophe. Thousands of
Rohingya were killed or injured. Information collected by the mission suggests that the
estimate of up to 10,000 deaths7 is a conservative one. Mass killings were perpetrated in
Min Gyi (Tula Toli), Maung Nu, Chut Pyin and Gudar Pyin, and in villages in the Koe Tan
Kauk village tract. In some cases, hundreds of people died. In both Min Gyi and Maung Nu,
villagers were gathered together before the men and boys were separated and killed. In Min
Gyi, women and girls were taken to nearby houses, gang raped, then killed or severely
injured. Houses were locked and set on fire. Few survived. In numerous other villages, the
number of casualties was also markedly high. Bodies were transported in military vehicles,
burned and disposed of in mass graves.
7 Médecins Sans Frontières, “‘No one was left’: Death and violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine
State, Myanmar”, March 2018.
37. People were killed or injured by gunshot, targeted or indiscriminate, often while
fleeing. Villagers were killed by soldiers, and sometimes by Rakhine men, using large
bladed weapons. Others were killed in arson attacks, burned to death in their own houses, in
particular the elderly, persons with disabilities and young children, unable to escape. In
some cases, people were forced into burning houses, or locked in buildings set on fire.
38. Rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale. Large-
scale gang rape was perpetrated by Tatmadaw soldiers in at least 10 village tracts of
northern Rakhine State. Sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang-raped
together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men”. Rapes were
often in public spaces and in front of families and the community, maximizing humiliation
and trauma. Mothers were gang raped in front of young children, who were severely injured
and in some instances killed. Women and girls 13 to 25 years of age were targeted,
including pregnant women. Rapes were accompanied by derogatory language and threats to
life, such as, “We are going to kill you this way, by raping you.” Women and girls were
systematically abducted, detained and raped in military and police compounds, often
amounting to sexual slavery. Victims were severely injured before and during rape, often
marked by deep bites. They suffered serious injuries to reproductive organs, including from
rape with knives and sticks. Many victims were killed or died from injuries. Survivors
displayed signs of deep trauma and face immense stigma in their community. There are
credible reports of men and boys also being subjected to rape, genital mutilation and
39. Children were subjected to, and witnessed, serious human rights violations,
including killing, maiming and sexual violence. Children were killed in front of their
parents, and young girls were targeted for sexual violence. Of approximately 500,000
Rohingya children in Bangladesh, many fled alone after their parents were killed or after
being separated from their families. The mission met many children with visible injuries
consistent with their accounts of being shot, stabbed or burned.
40. Numerous men and boys were rounded up, marched into the forest by security
forces or taken away in military vehicles. While some families hope that their fathers and
brothers were imprisoned, others suspect they have been killed.
41. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled, without shelter, food or water. They
walked for days or weeks through forests and over mountains. People died on the way,
some succumbing to injuries sustained during the attacks. Women gave birth; some babies
and infants died. An unknown number of people drowned after their boat capsized, or when
crossing rivers. The Tatmadaw also killed Rohingya during the journey and at border
crossings. Landmines planted in border areas by the Tatmadaw in early September 2017,
apparently to prevent or dissuade Rohingya from returning, led to further loss of life and
42. Satellite imagery and first-hand accounts corroborate widespread, systematic,
deliberate and targeted destruction, mainly by fire, of Rohingya-populated areas across the
three townships. At least 392 villages (40 per cent of all settlements in northern Rakhine)
were partially or totally destroyed, encompassing at least 37,700 individual structures.
Approximately 80 per cent were burned in the initial three weeks of the operations, a
significant portion of which after the Government’s official end date of the “clearance
operations”. More than 70 per cent of the villages destroyed were in Maungdaw, where the
majority of Rohingya lived. Most destroyed structures were homes. Schools, marketplaces
and mosques were also burned. Rohingya-populated areas were specifically targeted, with
adjacent or nearby Rakhine settlements left unscathed.
(b) A foreseeable and planned catastrophe
My Rakhine neighbour warned me, “You cannot stay here and we cannot control the
bad behaviour of our own people. The Government is planning to drive away your
43. The attacks conducted by ARSA in 2017 and the ensuing “clearance operations” did
not occur in a vacuum. They were foreseeable and planned.
44. ARSA emerged as a Rohingya resistance organization in response to the violence in
2012 and increased State oppression over all aspects of life. On 9 October 2016, the group8
launched a small first offensive against three border guard police posts in northern Rakhine
State. Nine police officers were killed, and ARSA obtained some arms. The security forces,
led by the Tatmadaw, responded with the “clearance operations”. Some 87,000 Rohingya
fled to Bangladesh. The same tactics and violations were seen in this operation as later in
2017, albeit on a smaller scale. A government investigation commission led by the Vice-
President, and the security forces’ own inquiries, cleared the security forces of wrongdoing,
endorsing the lawfulness and appropriateness of the response.
45. As in 2012, the violence in 2016 resulted in a further intensification of oppressive
measures against the Rohingya. Security forces, camps and checkpoints were increased.
Daily life for the Rohingya became unbearable, with extreme movement restrictions.
Protective fences around Rohingya houses were removed, and knives and other sharp
implements were confiscated. Security patrols, house searches and cases of beatings, theft
and extortion increased. Hundreds of men and boys were arrested, with the most educated
and influential frequently targeted. Many were subjected to ill-treatment or torture in
detention. Some were later released on payment of bribes; others have not been seen since.
Women and girls were subjected to sexual violence, including gang rape.
46. In parallel, the authorities embarked on a renewed effort to impose the National
Verification Card on the Rohingya, a card that the latter had refused, seeing it as symbol of
a discriminatory system that would entrench their status as “Bengali immigrants”. The card
increasingly became a prerequisite for passing through checkpoints, gaining access to
farmland, and for fishing. Intimidation and force were used, including at community
meetings in the presence of the police and military, during which threats were made at
gunpoint. At these meetings, villagers were told to “take the card or leave the country”;
others, for example in Chut Pyin, were told by soldiers to accept it or be killed. Most
Rohingya still refused.
47. In May and July 2017, the ultranationalist monk Wirathu visited northern Rakhine,
where he conducted mass public sermons. The village of Zay Di Pyin (Rathedaung
Township) was blockaded by Rakhine villagers and security forces throughout August.
Amid heightened tension immediately before 25 August 2017, Myanmar media
increasingly reported on alleged ARSA activity in an inflammatory manner. State-
sponsored hate speech towards the Rohingya also continued.
48. A large build-up of troops and other military assets across northern Rakhine began
in early August 2017, following a meeting between Rakhine politicians and the Tatmadaw
Commander-in-Chief. Soldiers from the 33rd and 99th Light Infantry Divisions were
airlifted into Rakhine State, with additional deliveries of military equipment. The increased
presence was evident. Soldiers took over border guard police posts. Rakhine men were
recruited into the security forces, including “fast-track” recruitment into the police. Other
local Rakhine men were mobilized and armed. This build-up was significant, requiring
logistical planning and time to implement, considerations that indicate that the subsequent
operations were foreseen and planned.
(c) An enduring catastrophe
I will not go back until they recognize our rights like others in Myanmar. Otherwise,
I would prefer to die here.
49. While the Government claimed that “clearance operations” had ended on 5
September,9 military engagement continued well into October. Freedom of movement was
further constrained, restricting remaining Rohingya to their houses, with limited access to
markets and livelihoods and exacerbating malnutrition. Humanitarian access was severely
restricted or blocked. Conversely, no protection was provided to Rohingya against vigilante
8 Then known as Harakah al-Yaqin.
9 See www.facebook.com/state.counsellor/posts/speech-delivered-by-her-excellency-daw-aung-san-
suu-kyi-state-counsellor-of-the-/1121130291354519/ (accessed on 10 September 2018).
attacks and the theft of property, livestock and other possessions by members of other
ethnic groups. Sporadic attacks, including sexual violence, continued. These factors forced
more Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, at an average rate of 1,733 per month since the
beginning of 2018.
50. The mass displacement and the burning of Rohingya villages were followed by the
systematic appropriation of the vacated land. Bulldozers flattened burned, damaged and
even surviving structures and vegetation, erasing every trace of the Rohingya communities,
while also destroying criminal evidence. Dozens of Rohingya villages have vanished. New
structures include posts for security forces and housing for other ethnic groups.
Government “resettlement” plans suggest that almost all houses to be constructed for
displaced communities are designated for non-Rohingya. Other infrastructure projects
appropriating Rohingya lands, including new roads and mines, are under way.
51. While the Government has, in principle, made a commitment to Rohingya
repatriation, nothing indicates to date that this will be in a manner that ensures respect for
human rights, which is essential for a safe, dignified and sustainable return of those
displaced. The repatriation procedure requires acceptance of National Verification Cards
and processing in barbed-wired reception centres. The root causes of the exodus, including
State-sanctioned oppression and an exclusionary and divisive rhetoric, are denied, yet
continue unabated. The security forces that perpetrated gross human rights violations with
impunity would be responsible for ensuring the security of returnees.
52. The “clearance operations” were led by the Tatmadaw, with other security forces,
mainly the Myanmar police force and the border guard police. Units of the Western
Command were actively engaged, together with the 33rd and 99th Light Infantry Divisions,
which report directly to the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, General Soe Win. The Divisions
were responsible for some of the most serious violations. Almost all instances of sexual
violence are attributable to the Tatmadaw.
53. In some villages, Rakhine men participated in the operations, mostly looting and
burning, but also killing and injuring Rohingya. Civilians from other minority ethnic groups
were also involved in some places. The recurrent and organized involvement of civilian
groups in the operations, and the consistent way in which they were equipped, tasked and
executed their roles across the three townships, demonstrate orchestration by the Tatmadaw.
54. ARSA also committed serious human rights abuses, including the killing of dozens
of suspected informants and the burning of the Rakhine village of Ah Htet Pyu Ma on 25
August 2017. Although the Government has claimed that ARSA burned Rohingya villages,
the mission found no such indication. Other abuses allegedly perpetrated by ARSA,
including several incidents where Rakhine and members of other ethnic groups, including
the Mro, were killed, require further investigation, as does the killing of up to 100 Hindu
men and women from Kha Maung Seik. The mission’s primary source information on the
latter incident corroborates the killing, but is inconclusive as to the perpetrator. Other
militant or criminal groups were also active in the region and may have been responsible
also for abuses.
B. Kachin and Shan States
The Tatmadaw soldiers don’t treat us like humans, they treat us like animals. They
look at us as though we shouldn’t even exist.
55. Similar patterns of conduct by security forces, particularly the Tatmadaw, have been
witnessed elsewhere. The mission focused on the situation in northern Myanmar (Kachin
and Shan States), where interlocutors considered their plight ignored.
56. Successive Governments have signed bilateral ceasefire agreements and a
nationwide ceasefire agreement with various “ethnic armed organizations”. In parallel,
since 2011, northern Myanmar has witnessed a sharp increase in fighting between the
Tatmadaw and armed groups, in particular those excluded from or not signatories to the
ceasefire agreement; these include the Kachin Independence Army, after a 17-year
ceasefire broke down in 2011; the Shan State Army-North; the Myanmar National
Democratic Alliance Army; and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army. Clashes also erupted
between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Shan State Army-South.
57. Each of the above-mentioned conflicts has a complex history and is fuelled by
various grievances, including with regard to land use, development projects, the
exploitation of natural resources and illegal narcotics trading. The underlying factors,
however, are demands for greater autonomy, self-determination and the elimination of
ethnic or religious discrimination, as well as resentment about Tatmadaw tactics targeting
civilians and violating human rights.
58. The mission verified a number of incidents in the context of these armed conflicts,
and subsequently confirmed consistent patterns of violations of international law. With
continuing hostilities and prevailing insecurity, these violations persist.
1. Violations by the Tatmadaw
There were no rebels in my village. But the army just came and attacked the people.
59. The Tatmadaw operations in northern Myanmar are characterized by systematic
attacks directed at civilians and civilian objects, and indiscriminate attacks. Attacks are
often carried out in civilian-populated residential areas, without any apparent military
objective and in flagrant disregard for life, property and the well-being of civilians.
Tatmadaw soldiers have shot directly at and shelled civilians fleeing or seeking shelter.
Attacks routinely resulted in civilian deaths and injuries. Widespread looting and the
destruction and burning of homes were commonplace. This conduct was observed in most
conflict-affected areas in northern Myanmar, especially in or around territory under the
control of ethnic armed organizations.
60. This modus operandi is a catalyst for other violations. Civilians are targeted because
they belong to the same ethnic group or because they are considered to be of “fighting age”,
seemingly in an effort to dissuade civilians from becoming involved with ethnic armed
organizations. The mission established a pattern of violations of the right to life, with
numerous unlawful killings, mostly committed in the context of military operations, as a
consequence of indiscriminate attacks, attacks targeting civilians, or the murder or
extrajudicial execution of persons in Tatmadaw custody. Unlawful killings are committed
in other contexts also, without any immediate or apparent link to hostilities, for example in
the context of forced labour.
61. Similar patterns emerge for cases of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, often
against men, women and children to obtain information or confessions regarding the
activities of ethnic armed organizations or as punishment for perceived sympathy for the
opponents of the Tatmadaw. Torture and ill-treatment were used to coerce individuals into
forced labour, and conditions of detention often amounted to ill-treatment; civilians were
forced to precede military units on patrol in conflict areas, sometimes in Tatmadaw
uniforms, thereby exposing them to attacks, death and injury.
62. Women have been subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Some have
been abducted by soldiers and then raped, or even gang-raped, before being killed. Women
and girls have been selected for forced marriage, and targeted in their homes for sexual
violence. In many cases, sexual violence was accompanied by degrading behaviour,
including insults and spitting. When women did escape, Tatmadaw soldiers would
frequently search for them, threaten and physically abuse members of their family, and
destroy or steal their property. Sexual violence against men has been inflicted as a means of
torture, including to obtain information or confessions.
63. The Tatmadaw has engaged in arbitrary arrest and deprivation of liberty, in many
cases amounting to enforced disappearance. Men and women, and in some cases children,
were taken from their villages and detained for forced labour or because of suspected links
to ethnic armed organizations. Victims have been held incommunicado in unofficial places
of detention for periods ranging from one day to two years. Most were not informed of the
reason for arrest, nor brought before a judge. In one incident in Monekoe, Shan State, more
than 100 individuals were arrested and detained in November 2016.
64. As in other areas of Myanmar, forced labour has been a common feature of life for
many in northern Myanmar. The mission verified a pattern of systematic use by the
Tatmadaw of forced labour, including for portering or digging trenches, or as guides or
cooks. Soldiers routinely arrived in villages without warning and took people for forced
labour for up to weeks at a time. Some of those taken were required to fight for the
Tatmadaw. The Tatmadaw recruited children throughout the period under review, although
it has made some effort to address this issue.
65. Violations against ethnic and religious minorities in northern Myanmar are often
committed with persecutory intent, in a context of severe discrimination based on ethnic or
religious grounds. This has led, for example, to the destruction or ransacking of churches
and religious objects during military operations (and sometimes to the subsequent
construction of Buddhist pagodas), but also in the use of insulting language while the acts
were being committed.
2. Violations and abuses by “ethnic armed organizations”
Since my son was forcibly recruited in 2016, I have not heard from him. I always
check Facebook to see if I will recognize him in a post, either dead or alive.
66. Ethnic armed organizations committed international humanitarian law violations and
human rights abuses, many in the context of hostilities between the Ta’ang National
Liberation Army and the Shan State Army-South, including abduction and detention, ill-
treatment and destruction or appropriation of civilian land and property. There have been
instances where these groups, as well as the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar
National Democratic Alliance Army, have failed to take precautionary measures to protect
civilians in attacks and forcibly recruited adults and children. Some put immense economic
pressure on civilians through arbitrary “taxation”. The extent to which rape, torture and
killings were committed requires further investigation.
67. While the mission’s information on violations and abuses by ethnic armed
organizations may not be representative, accounts would indicate that these are frequent but
generally not systematic. This warrants further investigation.
3. Devastating humanitarian impact
68. Poverty levels in Kachin and Shan are high. The hostilities in northern Myanmar
have compounded the humanitarian situation. People trapped in conflict-affected areas have
been denied safe passage to leave. Others are unable to return because their homes have
been looted and/or destroyed, because of continuing fighting or the presence of landmines,
or because their land was appropriated after they fled, including by the Tatmadaw and
corporations. This has resulted in protracted situations of internal displacement.
69. An estimated 100,000 people in Kachin and Shan have been living in displacement
camps or camp-like situations since 2011. They live in overcrowded conditions with
inadequate shelter. Access to food and health care is limited, while the rate of chronic
malnutrition is well above the national average. Outbreaks of preventable diseases are
reported. Access to education at all levels is inadequate. Furthermore, the cycle of
temporary displacements continues. Among non-displaced populations, access to education
and health care is often disrupted by fighting.
70. Humanitarian assistance has been frequently and arbitrarily denied, and despite the
clear need thereof, the movement of relief personnel has been restricted for long periods of
time. Access has significantly deteriorated since June 2016, to a point where international
humanitarian actors are unable to assess needs or provide assistance to the majority of
displaced persons, exacerbating already dire conditions. Local organizations also are
C. Fundamental freedoms
The Bengali population exploded and the aliens tried to seize the land of local
ethnics. [...] Race cannot be swallowed by the ground but only by another race. All
must be loyal to the State in serving their duties, so that such cases will never
71. The mission examined the issue of democratic space and the enjoyment of the rights
to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. While Myanmar has taken
significant strides on this front, especially between 2011 and 2015, disturbing trends have
emerged. Violence and human rights violations, including in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan
States, are fuelled by the silencing of critical voices by the Myanmar authorities, who at the
same time amplify a hateful rhetoric that emboldens perpetrators.
72. The Myanmar authorities, in particular the Tatmadaw, do not tolerate scrutiny or
criticism. They use various laws to arrest, detain or harass civil society actors, journalists,
lawyers and human rights defenders who express critical views. The case against two
Reuters journalists for their investigative work into the Inn Din massacre and the
prosecution of persons peacefully protesting the conflicts in northern Myanmar, including
in Yangon, are recent examples. The mission verified instances of reprisals for engagement
with the United Nations and of excessive use of force in managing demonstrations.
73. The Government’s response to hate speech has been inadequate. The mission is
deeply disturbed by the prevalence of hate speech, offline and online, often including
advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination,
hostility or violence. This has accompanied outbreaks of violence, especially in Rakhine
State. Dehumanizing and stigmatizing language against the Rohingya, and Muslims in
general, has for many years been a key component of the campaign to “protect race and
religion”, spearheaded by extremist Buddhist groups like MaBaTha (see para. 13 above).
Hate narratives are common. The Myanmar authorities have condoned these developments
and, although generally using less inflammatory language, their rhetoric has mirrored and
promoted the narratives espoused. This includes the insistence that “Rohingya” do not exist
or belong in Myanmar, even denying use of the term; denial of the suffering of Rohingya;
the association of Rohingya identity with terrorism; and the repeated allusions to illegal
immigration and incontrollable birth rates. The impact of this rhetoric is compounded by
the stream of false or incomplete information and explicit calls for patriotic action (for
example, in a Facebook post, “every citizen has the duty to safeguard race, religion, cultural
identities and national interest”). The Myanmar authorities, including the Government and
the Tatmadaw, have fostered a climate in which hate speech thrives, human rights
violations are legitimized, and incitement to discrimination and violence facilitated.
74. The role of social media is significant. Facebook has been a useful instrument for
those seeking to spread hate, in a context where, for most users, Facebook is the Internet.
Although improved in recent months, the response of Facebook has been slow and
ineffective. The extent to which Facebook posts and messages have led to real-world
discrimination and violence must be independently and thoroughly examined. The mission
regrets that Facebook is unable to provide country-specific data about the spread of hate
speech on its platform, which is imperative to assess the adequacy of its response.
V. Hallmarks of Tatmadaw operations
75. The mission highlights four key common characteristics of Tatmadaw operations in
Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States.
10 Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, “Gallant efforts to defend the HQ against terrorist attacks and
brilliant efforts to restore regional peace, security are honoured”, Facebook post, 21 September 2017.
A. Targeting of civilians
76. The military has consistently failed to respect international human rights law and the
international humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. The
deliberate targeting of civilians has been part of Tatmadaw policies, tactics and conduct for
decades. The “Four Cuts” counterinsurgency policy, initiated in the 1960s and still
implemented, is aimed at cutting off non-State armed groups from access to food, finances,
intelligence, and recruits from the local civilian population. The policy has been
implemented through “clearance operations”, essentially scorched earth campaigns in
which civilians are killed and entire villages destroyed, leading to mass displacement.
77. Such policies and practices violate the State’s obligations under international law
and amount to criminal conduct. They are also unwarranted; military necessity would never
justify killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children and burning entire
villages. The tactics used by the Tatmadaw are consistently and grossly disproportionate to
actual security threats, especially in Rakhine State, but also in northern Myanmar.
78. While the mission outlines in the present report the violations against civilians from
many ethnic groups in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, the contempt shown by the
Tatmadaw for human life, integrity and freedom, and for international law generally, should
be of concern to the entire population. The number of refugees from areas outside these
three States attests to the existence of similar human rights concerns elsewhere in the
B. Sexual violence
79. Rape and sexual violence have been a particularly egregious and recurrent feature of
the targeting of the civilian population in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States since 2011.
Similar patterns of rape and sexual violence have been reported for at least three decades.
Rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, mutilation and sexual
assault are frequently followed by the killing of victims. The scale, brutality and systematic
nature of these violations indicate that rape and sexual violence are part of a deliberate
strategy to intimidate, terrorize or punish a civilian population, and are used as a tactic of
war. This degree of normalization is only possible in a climate of long-standing impunity.
C. Exclusionary rhetoric
80. The Tatmadaw has historically cast itself as the protector of the nation, preserving
“national unity in the face of ethnic diversity” while prioritizing Bamar-Buddhist identity
and interests. Discrimination against ethnic and religious minority groups has been well-
documented for decades. Military operations are often accompanied by deeply insulting
slurs and outright threats linked to ethnicity and religion.
81. The situation of the Rohingya has been aggravated by their gradually increasing
exclusion from the Myanmar nation since the 1960s, amid decades of State-sponsored
stigmatization, leading to their de facto statelessness and being reviled by much of the
population. The members of the mission were struck by the normality of deeply
exclusionary and dehumanizing rhetoric in Myanmar society, actively nurtured by the
Tatmadaw. While other ethnic and religious minorities are, at least in theory, accepted as
belonging to the nation under their “national race” status, the lack of status of the Rohingya
has dramatically increased their vulnerability, which contributes to the extreme scale and
intensity of the violence against them.
82. The Tatmadaw acts with complete impunity and has never been held accountable. Its
standard response is to deny, dismiss and obstruct. It publicly lauds the discipline of troops
and operations conducted “in full accordance with the law”. It promotes perpetrators.
Occasional superficial investigations have only been undertaken when the Tatmadaw has
been faced with public exposure of undeniable evidence. It consistently fails to attribute
responsibility, thereby reinforcing its message to troops that they will face no consequences.
This pattern is a result of the political and legal construct of the country, whereby the
Tatmadaw is removed from all civilian oversight and is given the constitutional right to
adjudicate its own affairs. The Commander-in-Chief makes “final and conclusive”
decisions in matters of military justice. The documented history of crimes committed by the
Tatmadaw demonstrates an absence of responsible command, and of measures to prevent or
VI. Crimes under international law
83. On the basis of the body of information collected, the mission has reasonable
grounds to conclude that serious crimes under international law have been committed that
warrant criminal investigation and prosecution.
84. Genocide is when a person commits a prohibited act with the intent to destroy, in
whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such. The Rohingya are a
protected group under this definition. Their treatment by the Myanmar security forces,
acting in concert with certain civilians, includes conduct that amounts to four of the five
defined prohibited acts: (a) killing; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm; (c) inflicting
conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group in whole or
in part; and (d) imposing measures intending to prevent births.
85. The critical element of the crime is “genocidal intent”. The mission assessed its
body of information in the light of the jurisprudence of international tribunals regarding the
reasonable inference of such intent. The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which
they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed
genocidal intent to be established in other contexts. Factors pointing to such intent include
the broader oppressive context and hate rhetoric; specific utterances of commanders and
direct perpetrators; exclusionary policies, including to alter the demographic composition of
Rakhine State; the level of organization indicating a plan for destruction; and the extreme
scale and brutality of the violence committed.
86. Having given careful consideration to other possible inferences regarding intent, the
mission considers that these can be discounted as unreasonable. In this regard, it recalls the
statement made by the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief that the “clearance operations”
were not a response to a concrete threat from ARSA, but to the “unfinished job” of solving
the “long-standing” “Bengali problem” (see para. 35 above).
87. In the light of the above considerations on the inference of genocidal intent, the
mission concludes that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and
prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent
court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.
B. Crimes against humanity
88. On the basis of information gathered, the mission finds that crimes against humanity
have been committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, principally by the Tatmadaw. In
the case of Kachin and Shan States, the crimes include murder, imprisonment, enforced
disappearance, torture, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, persecution,
and enslavement. In Rakhine State, these and other crimes against humanity have been
committed. The elements of extermination and deportation are also present, while the
systematic oppression and discrimination not only supports a finding of persecution but
may also amount to the crime of apartheid. For both northern Myanmar and Rakhine State,
the acts were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian
C. War crimes
89. Given the mission’s consideration that non-international armed conflicts have been
ongoing in Kachin and Shan States (for the entire period under review) and in Rakhine
State since at least August 2017, much of the conduct amounting to crimes against
humanity will also satisfy the war crime elements of murder, torture, cruel treatment,
outrages upon personal dignity, attacking civilians, displacing civilians, pillaging, attacking
protected objects, taking hostages, sentencing or execution without due process, as well as
rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence. Certain acts committed by ethnic armed
organizations and ARSA may also constitute war crimes.
90. Non-State armed groups have committed crimes against civilians, for which they
should be held accountable. During the period under review, the Tatmadaw was the main
perpetrator of serious human rights violations and crimes under international law in Kachin,
Rakhine and Shan States. In addition, in Rakhine State, the Myanmar police force,
NaSaKa 11 and Border Guard Police were also perpetrators. Local authorities, militias,
militant “civilian” groups, politicians and monks participated or assisted in violations, to
91. The Tatmadaw command exercises effective control over its own soldiers, as well as
over other armed actors deployed in military operations. The consistent tactical formula
employed by the Tatmadaw exhibits a degree of coordination only possible when all troops
are acting under the effective control of a single unified command. This effective control,
combined with the knowledge of crimes committed by subordinates, a failure to take
necessary and reasonable measures to prevent and punish crimes, and a causal link between
these failures and the atrocities committed, indicate that individual criminal liability would
extend beyond individual perpetrators to their hierarchical commanders.
92. The mission has drawn up a non-exhaustive list of alleged perpetrators of crimes
under international law, indicating priority subjects for investigation and prosecution. The
list includes the names of alleged direct perpetrators, but focuses on those exercising
effective control over them. In relation to the recent events in Rakhine State, this includes
the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, and:
• Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Vice Senior-General Soe Win
• Commander, Bureau of Special Operations-3, Lieutenant-General Aung Kyaw Zaw
• Commander, Western Regional Military Command, Major-General Maung Maung Soe
• Commander, 33rd Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Aung Aung
• Commander, 99th Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Than Oo
The full list will be held in the mission’s archives, kept in the custody of OHCHR, and may
be shared with any competent and credible body pursuing accountability in accordance with
recognized international norms and standards.
93. The constitutional powers of the civilian authorities afford little scope for controlling
the actions of the Tatmadaw, nor is there any indication that they participated directly in
planning or implementing security operations or were part of the command structure.
Nevertheless, nothing indicates that the civilian authorities used their limited powers to
influence the situation in Rakhine State where crimes were being perpetrated. The State
Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has not used her de facto position as Head of
Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek
alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population. On the
contrary, the civilian authorities have spread false narratives, denied the wrongdoing of the
11 The “Border Area Immigration Control Headquarters”, disbanded in 2013.
Tatmadaw, blocked independent investigations (including that of the fact-finding mission),
and overseen the destruction of evidence. Through their acts and omissions, the civilian
authorities have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes.
94. Systemic discrimination and crimes under international law were committed during
a period of significant international engagement in Myanmar, and while the United Nations
was supposed to be implementing its Human Rights Up Front action plan. While Myanmar
was repeatedly identified as a crisis situation requiring a human rights-driven response by
the “whole of the United Nations”, this approach was rarely, if ever, taken. Rather, many
United Nations agencies have continued to prioritize development goals, humanitarian
access and quiet diplomacy. That approach has demonstrably failed; and the United Nations
as a whole has failed adequately to address human rights concerns in Myanmar. Even now,
the approach taken displays few signs of any lessons learned, with human rights missing
from agreements recently signed with the Government. While thanking those United
Nations entities that have provided it with valuable assistance and information, the mission
regrets the lack of cooperation from others.
I am not a very educated person but I hope the United Nations has the ability to get
us justice by making sure that the Government of Myanmar can be questioned about
what they did to us.
95. Justice has remained elusive for victims in Myanmar for decades, with the
authorities systematically failing to condemn, investigate and prosecute perpetrators.
Impunity for gross human rights violations has significantly and demonstrably contributed
to the validation of deeply oppressive and discriminatory conduct, enabled recurrence of
human rights violations and atrocity crimes, emboldened perpetrators and silenced victims.
Unless impunity is addressed, and all ranks within the security forces are held accountable
for their past, current and future actions, similar outbreaks of violence and associated
atrocity crimes can be expected to continue, with further devastating domestic and regional
96. In the face of the Rakhine crisis, the Myanmar authorities have created ad hoc
inquiry commissions and boards. The mission has examined eight such efforts since 2012.
None meets the standard of an impartial, independent, effective and thorough human rights
investigation. To the mission’s knowledge, none has led to any prosecution for gross human
rights violations and redress for victims. The reason is simple: this is not possible in
97. Impunity is deeply entrenched in the State’s political and legal system, effectively
placing the Tatmadaw above the law. The Constitution and other laws provide for
immunities and place the Tatmadaw beyond civilian oversight. The Tatmadaw can
independently adjudicate its own matters, with the Commander-in-Chief having the final
word. The rare cases, brought mostly before military courts without transparency, are
wholly insufficient to counter the overall trend of impunity. Furthermore, military courts
are inadequate forums to deal with large-scale human rights violations perpetrated by the
military. Nor are civilian courts the answer; the domestic justice system is not independent
and lacks the capacity to respect fair trial standards or to deal with the breadth and gravity
of the violations perpetrated by high-level officials, especially crimes under international
law. Those who file complaints often face intimidation and reprisals. In short,
accountability at the domestic level is currently unattainable.
98. Even though the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes
under international law lies with the Government of Myanmar, it has demonstrated that it is
unable and unwilling. Accountability would require an overhaul of the entire national
justice and security sectors. The mission has concluded on reasonable grounds that the
Government’s recently-created commission of inquiry will not and cannot provide a real
avenue for accountability, even with some international involvement. The impetus for
accountability must come from the international community.
99. The Mission proposes an accountability process that is transformative, victim-
centred, comprehensive and inclusive. 12 The process is aimed at contributing to three
fundamental shifts: breaking the climate of impunity, ensuring that all State institutions,
including the security forces, are answerable to the people, and promoting a concept of the
State and the nation of Myanmar that is inclusive, based on equality and respect for the
human rights of all. These considerations should permeate all measures adopted in the areas
of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.
IX. Conclusions and recommendations
100. The gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine
and Shan States are shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity. Many of these
violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law. They
are also shocking because they stem from deep fractures in society and structural
problems that have been apparent and unaddressed for decades. They are shocking
for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity that is attached to them. The mission
concludes that these abusive patterns are reflective of the situation in Myanmar as a
101. Myanmar has a heavy responsibility to remedy the situation as a matter of the
utmost urgency; otherwise, it risks destroying its democratic reform process. The
international community also bears responsibility and must take a united stand both
to condemn the violations and to assist Myanmar in addressing the root causes of its
recurrent problems. This begins by ensuring that the perpetrators of crimes are held
to account, and by giving hope to victims of a future without the fear and insecurity
that have to date characterized their existence.
102. The steps required to address the human rights crises in Myanmar are well
known. For nearly three decades, five consecutive special rapporteurs on the situation
of human rights in Myanmar have presented an annual report to the General
Assembly and the Human Rights Council, with detailed recommendations for all
stakeholders. Similarly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has
formulated concrete recommendations, as have many international and national civil
society organizations. The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State also presented a
detailed report. These recommendations should be implemented immediately.
103. Besides its comprehensive recommendations, 13 the mission draws particular
attention to the priority areas for action by the international community below.
104. The international community, through the United Nations, should use all
diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to assist Myanmar in meeting its
responsibility to protect its people from genocide, crimes against humanity and war
crimes. It should take collective action in accordance with the Charter of the United
Nations, as necessary.
105. The Security Council should ensure accountability for crimes under
international law committed in Myanmar, preferably by referring the situation to the
International Criminal Court or, alternatively, by creating an ad hoc international
criminal tribunal. Furthermore, the Security Council should adopt targeted
individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against those who appear
most responsible for serious crimes under international law. It should also impose an
arms embargo on Myanmar.
106. Until the Security Council acts, the General Assembly, or alternatively the
Human Rights Council, should create an independent, impartial mechanism to collect,
consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian
law and human rights violations and abuses and to prepare files to facilitate and
12 See A/HRC/39/CRP.2.
expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings in national, regional or
international courts or tribunals.
107. The Human Rights Council should continue to support the mandates of the
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner, and
ensure they have adequate resources to maintain a strong focus on the human rights
crisis in Myanmar.
108. The Human Rights Council should specifically request OHCHR to focus on
ensuring accountability for human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar,
including by enhanced monitoring, documentation, analysis and public reporting on
the situation of human rights; raising awareness among civil society and other actors
engaged in documenting human rights violations about relevant international
standards; working with victim communities to raise awareness about justice options;
and supporting comprehensive rule of law and security sector reform in Myanmar in
accordance with international human rights norms and standards. Appropriate
resources should be allocated.
109. The Human Rights Council should establish a second fact-finding mission for a
limited period to build on the work undertaken by the mission, until either one of the
mechanisms outlined in paragraphs 103 and 104 above are operational, or the
reinforced work of OHCHR set out in paragraph 107 is in place.
110. The United Nations should urgently adopt a common strategy to ensure that all
engagement with Myanmar takes into account and addresses human rights concerns,
in accordance with the Human Rights Up Front action plan. This should guide all
engagement of the United Nations in Myanmar, particularly in relation to Rakhine
State, and include policies and public advocacy stances. All support provided by the
United Nations to the Myanmar authorities should undergo a full human rights due
111. As a matter of urgency, a comprehensive, independent inquiry should be
conducted into the involvement of the United Nations in Myanmar since 2011, with a
view to establishing whether everything possible to prevent or mitigate the unfolding
crises was done, identifying lessons learned and good practices, making
recommendations as appropriate, including on accountability, and enabling more
effective work in future.
112. The United Nations and the international community must ensure that the
repatriation of refugees and the return of internally displaced persons are allowed
only when safe, voluntary and dignified, with explicit human rights protections in
place, including citizenship. In the current circumstances, such returns are not
113. All Member States should ensure that engagement with Myanmar, and support
for aid, development and reform projects, take into account and address human rights
concerns and explicitly conform to the principles of non-discrimination and equality.
They should ensure that humanitarian organizations working on the situation in
Myanmar are appropriately funded. States should cease operational support for the
Tatmadaw and other security forces until there is (a) a demonstrable commitment to
genuine reform; (b) international assistance in implementing reform; and (c)
acceptance of and cooperation with international mechanisms to hold those
responsible accountable for crimes under international law.
114. Regardless of the imposition of an arms embargo by the Security Council,
States should not authorize the transfer of arms to Myanmar, considering the
overriding risk that they would be used to undermine peace and security and in the
commission of serious crimes under international law.
115. Relevant regional organizations, including the European Union and the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), should develop strategies to ensure
accountability for perpetrators of crimes under international law in Myanmar,
including through sustained engagement with Myanmar and support for an
international justice mechanism.
116. Member States should exercise jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute alleged
perpetrators of serious crimes under international law committed in Myanmar.
117. The United Nations should establish a trust fund for victim support, through
which victims can receive psychosocial support, legal aid and livelihood support, and
others means of assistance. All trust fund projects should be designed in consultation