Canadian legislators have unanimously voted to declare crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar military to be genocide.
The House of Commons endorsed on Thursday the findings of a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar that found “crimes against humanity have been committed against the Rohingya” and that these acts were sanctioned by top Myanmar military commanders.
In a motion, Canadian legislators said they “recognise that these crimes against the Rohingya constitute genocide”.
Rights organisations have accused Myanmar military of committing extrajudicial killings, gang rape, and arson during their bloody campaign launched in August last year after army posts came under attack from Rohingya rebels.
More than 700,000 Rohingya people have forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they now live in cramped refugee camps.
They also urged the UN Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), while also calling for Myanmar’s generals to be investigated and prosecuted “for the crime of genocide”.
“I want to underscore how tragic, how horrific the crimes against the Rohingya are,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said. “We are leading an international effort for justice and accountability for the Rohingya.”
“Today’s unanimous motion is a very important step in that effort.”
Human rights observers called the declaration as a significant milestone.
The UN report published last month said military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, must face investigation and prosecution for “genocidal intent” in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, as well as crimes against humanity and other war crimes in the states of Kachin and Shan.
Myanmar denies any organised abuses.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement last year to repatriate the Muslim minority – but it has stalled as the Rohingya fear to return to Myanmar’s Rakhine State without their safety and rights guaranteed.