In what counts as a seismic event, United Nations investigators have accused specific members of Myanmar’s military of orchestrating a murderous campaign that bears all the hallmarks of genocide.
Myanmar soldiers and civilian extremists slaughtered at least 10,000 Rohingya Muslims over the past year, according to the United Nation’s exhaustively researched report, while another 725,000 Rohingya have fled the country, mostly to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Among those named by the UN: Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the military, and his principal lieutenants. According to the report, they supervised a campaign of “killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children and burning entire villages” in Rakhine state.
The report also does not spare Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, blaming Myanmar’s de facto head of government for declining to wield her moral authority more forcefully to stop the killing. And it attacks Facebook for being a “useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate."
The report is as damning as the UN has ever issued. So what now?
It speaks volumes that the most meaningful consequence to befall the murderers in Myanmar’s military leadership to date has been the deletion of their Facebook accounts. As for Ms. Suu Kyi, in a public appearance on Tuesday she opted to discuss literature rather than the UN’s findings.
This can’t be allowed to stand. Canada and the European Union have issued sanctions against Myanmar military officials and blocked weapons sales to the country. But a finding of “genocidal intent” by the UN must be taken seriously by the entire international community.
What is required is a concerted effort to launch international criminal proceedings against those named by the UN, perhaps through the International Criminal Court in The Hague. That won’t be easy; Myanmar, like most brutal regimes, is not a party to the ICC.
But the world must try. Genocides are crimes against humanity. The failure to respond to one is just as bad.