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Rights Group Accuses Myanmar of Crimes Against Humanity

Rohingya refugees queue for aid at Cox’s Bazar,  Bangladesh on Sept. 26.Rohingya refugees queue for aid at Cox’s Bazar,  Bangladesh on Sept. 26.

Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity in its campaign against Muslims in Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, calling for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo.

A government spokesman rejected the accusation, saying there was no evidence, adding that the government was committed to protecting rights, Reuters reported.

Myanmar has also rejected UN accusations that its forces are engaged in ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in response to coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on the security forces on Aug. 25.

It says its forces are fighting terrorists responsible for attacking the police and the army, killing civilians and torching villages.

The military campaign has sent nearly 440,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, most of them Rohingya. They have accused the security forces and Buddhist vigilantes of trying to drive Rohingya out of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

“The Burmese military is brutally expelling the Rohingya from northern Rakhine State,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“The massacres of villagers and mass arson driving people from their homes are all crimes against humanity.”

The International Criminal Court defines crimes against humanity as acts including murder, torture, rape and deportation “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack”.

Human Rights Watch said its research, supported by satellite imagery, had found crimes of deportation and forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder, rape and persecution.

The UN Security Council and concerned countries should impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo, the group said.

The violence and the refugee exodus represent the biggest crisis the government of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has faced since it came to power last year.

Suu Kyi has faced scathing criticism and calls for her Nobel prize to be withdrawn.  Reacting to her speech on Sept.19, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

“Aung San Suu Kyi today demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming.”

Myanmar regards the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and bouts of suppression and violence have flared for decades. Most Rohingya are stateless.

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