Another showcase of “Sham Accountability” by Myanmar Military

Yesterday, the Myanmar military announced its conviction of three military officers for the massacre of Rohingya villagers during an army-led crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017. Among the villages was Gu Dar Pyin, where five mass graves were previously uncovered. But while confirming a guilty verdict for three officers involved in the massacre, the Commander-in-Chief’s office provided no details regarding the perpetrators, their crimes or their sentences. Victims are thus left to guess as to the convicts’ identity, sentences and crimes.  

The Rohingya cannot accept a judicial process that is shrouded in secrecy, fails to identify perpetrators, or provide transparency regarding sentencing. Such efforts are not an attempt to provide solace for victims or offer a true accounting for war crimes.

Yesterday’s convictions come after years of denials and cover-up by the Myanmar military. After initially denying the atrocities committed against the Rohingya, in September 2019 the military launched court-martial proceedings, admitting there had been “weakness in following instructions” in the village. Yet just three months later, in December 2019, Myanmar’s State-Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi told the International Court of Justice that the government largely supported the army’s justification of the 2017 operations.

UN investigators have found widespread evidence of extrajudicial killings in many villages during the 2017 crackdown. However, it remains an open question as to whether the undisclosed soldiers will serve their sentence or if the Rohingyas will ever see justice in their own homeland. The Myanmar government’s track record suggests that genuine accountability will remain elusive.  In 2018, the military sentenced its security members to a decade in prison for the killing of 10 Rohingya in Inn Din village. Yet the perpetrators were released in less than one year. Such sham attempts to hold war criminals to account do not in fact serve justice and in contrary, but are merely a brazen attempt to reduce international pressure to deliver justice and divert attention from the root causes of the Rohingya crisis.

Rather than engage in sham accountability measures, Myanmar’s government and military must cooperate in good faith with the International Court of Justice, end the ongoing atrocities against the Rohingya community and other ethnic and religious minorities, and commit to an inclusive electoral process, that enfranchises the Rohingya people.  It is imperative that the international unity unites behind such efforts, and lays the foundation for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingya to our homeland in Rakhine State.