A United Nations report says Myanmar’s top generals should be investigated and prosecuted for committing genocide and war crimes against the Muslim Rohingya minority, raising pressure on the international community to act against the country’s military and civilian government.
The UN Human Rights Council-mandated fact-finding mission’s report, released Monday, found Myanmar’s security forces systematically murdered, tortured, gang-raped and enslaved civilians, while also setting fire to entire communities in violation of international law. On the same day, Facebook Inc. said it was also removing accounts and pages linked to Myanmar’s top military officials, including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, whose Facebook posts were cited by the UN as proof of pre-planning attacks.
“Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages,” the report says.
UN investigators said “gross human rights violations” committed by Myanmar’s military — and aided by the civilian government’s lack of action — were “shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity.” They recommended the UN Security Council implement travel bans and asset freezes against those who have violated international law. The UN should refer the matter to the International Criminal Court, or a specially-created international criminal tribunal, they recommended.
The UN report says the army’s crimes against the Muslim Rohingya, nearly 1 million of whom have fled into neighboring Bangladesh, is “similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts.”
Acting on concerns about the misuse of its platforms in Myanmar, Facebook removed 18 accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook pages that were followed by nearly 12 million people, the company said in a blog post. It’s also banning 20 individuals and organizations, including the army chief and the military’s Myawaddy television network.
“We want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions,” Facebook said.
A Myanmar government spokesman did not answer a call for comment on the UN report. Previously, Myanmar government officials have blamed Rohingya for launching attacks on state security forces and for setting fire to their own homes.
Facebook has been criticized in a number of Asian countries as its platforms, including Instagram and the widely-used WhatsApp messaging service, are used to spread hate, misinformation and fake news or rumors that can help fuel mob violence.
“While we were too slow to act, we’re now making progress – with better technology to identify hate speech, improved reporting tools, and more people to review content,” Facebook said. “Today, we are taking more action in Myanmar.”
In India, fake rumors spread through WhatsApp led to mob attacks and numerous deaths, while President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines has been accused of using Facebook to target critics. These developments, in part, led WhatsApp to begin labeling forwarded messages, in an attempt to crack down on fake news and rumors.
In its post, Facebook noted that the “nascent” state of the news media and the rapid adoption of smartphones made Myanmar particularly vulnerable.
“We have a responsibility to fight abuse on Facebook,” wrote Facebook product manager Sara Su in a blog post earlier this month. “This is especially true in countries like Myanmar where many people are using the internet for the first time and social media can be used to spread hate and fuel tension on the ground.” — Bloomberg