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UN Report Finds Genocidal Intent Sexual Violence Against Rohingya by Myanmar Army

By Paul Eckert 2019-08-23 -- Sexual violence committed by Myanmar soldiers against Rohingya women and girls in 2017 indicated a genocidal intent to "intimidate, terrorise and punish" the Muslim ethnic minority, United Nations investigators said in a report that swiftly rejected Friday by the Myanmar military.

The panel of independent investigators, set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017, found that "sexual and gender-based violence was a hallmark of the Tatmadaw's (Myanmar military) operations in northern Myanmar and in Rakhine," the report said.

"These violations, for most part perpetrated against ethnic women and girls, were used with the intent to intimidate, terrorize and punish the civilian population and as a tactic of war," said the report, released on Thursday at the United Nations in New York.

"In Rakhine State, where sexual and gender-based violence was committed on a massive scale during the Tatmadaw's "clearance operations" of 2016 and 2017, the Mission documented gang rapes, rapes and other forms of sexual violence," it said.

"Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 per cent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes. The Tatmadaw was responsible for 82 per cent of these gang rapes," added the report.

The sexual violence report follows a major report by the same fact-finding mission a year ago that found signs of genocidal intent in the military campaign in August 2017 that drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

The August 2018 report identified five indicators of genocidal intent by the Myanmar military: the use of derogatory language; specific comments by government officials, politicians, religious authorities and military commanders prior, during and after the violence; the existence of discriminatory plans and policies; evidence of an organized plan of destruction; and the extreme brutality of the campaign.

"The mission now concludes on reasonable grounds that the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls that began on 25 August 2017 was a sixth factor that indicated the Tatmadaw's genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya people," the new report said.

The authors said they made this determination based on "the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injures to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh."

Reuters news agency quoted military spokesman Major-General Tun Tun Nyi as calling the accusations "groundless" and based on "talking stories".

"I cannot read out what they mentioned in their report, because it is not suitable to say in front of women in polite society," he said at a news conference in Myanmar on Friday.

Myanmar has laws against sexual assault, and soldiers were warned against it at military schools, the spokesman was quoted as saying.

"If you look at these experts, don't they know our country's law or respect it?" he asked.

Myanmar's civilian government and powerful military have rejected the findings of U.N. and other independent investigations of the events of August 2017 and have done little to hold anyone accountable for the violent campaign to expel the Rohingya.

"Two years after the 'clearance operations' against the Rohingya population in Rakhine, and one year since the publication of the Mission's findings, accountability for these egregious acts remains elusive," said the report.

"This report is a call to action to the Government of Myanmar, to all parties to the conflicts and to the international community to hold perpetrators of rape and other forms of sexual violence to account," said the UN report.

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