Myanmar military leaders oversaw 'crimes against humanity': Amnesty
The human rights group gathered extensive evidence saying it implicates Myanmar's military Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in crimes against humanity, committed during the military's ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State.
Amnesty International called for the general and 12 other individuals to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC)
Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled over the border to Bangladesh since August to escape a bloody military crackdown that has left a trail of torched villages in its wake as refugees allege murder and rape by Myanmar's armed forces.
"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. There is a mountain of evidence that this was part of a highly orchestrated, systematic attack on the Rohingya population," said Matthew Wells, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International.
The report - titled "We Will Destroy Everything: Military Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar" - found: "the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population was achieved by a relentless and systematic campaign in which the Myanmar security forces unlawfully killed thousands of Rohingya, including young children".
It also accused security forces of sexual violence, torture, forced displacement and burning markets and farmland that starved communities and forced them to flee.
"These crimes amount to crimes against humanity under international law, as they were perpetrated as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Rohingya population," the report said.
The report said some senior military figures and border guard police oversaw units that directly carried out alleged atrocities, while others knew of subordinates' actions and failed to prevent, stop, or punish the crimes.
Amnesty International obtained an audio recording, believed to be authentic, with a military officer saying, "we got an order to burn down the entire village if there is any disturbance. If you villagers aren't living peacefully, we will destroy everything".
"Thousands of Rohingya women, men and children were murdered - bound and summarily executed; shot and killed while running away; or burned to death inside their homes - though it may never be known exactly how many lost their lives as a result of the military operation," said the report.
The 186-page report also found that the security forces raped Rohingya women and girls, both in their villages and as they fled to Bangladesh.
"The United Nations Security Council must stop playing politics and urgently refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar and impose targeted financial sanctions against senior officials responsible for serious violations and crimes."
"A failure to act now in light of the overwhelming body of evidence begs the question: what will it take for the international community to take justice seriously?"
An internal investigation conducted by the military was released late last year, clearing themselves over the reported Rohingya atrocities, and was described as 'white-washing' by human rights groups.
In the past, Suu Kyi has defended the military operation, and authorities claim the security crackdown was in response to attacks by Rohingya militants on police posts.
Yanghee Lee, a UN special envoy on human rights described Myanmar's violent military operations as bearing, "the hallmarks of a genocide".
Pressure is also mounting from the ICC, which is due to discuss on 20 June, whether to launch an investigation into the crackdown.
Myanmar, which denies the ethnic cleansing allegations, has dismissed the move, saying it is not a signatory or member of the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC.