Myanmar finds troops guilty in Rohingya atrocities court-martial

In rare action, three military officers found guilty as Myanmar faces genocide charges at UN court over 2017 crackdown.

Rohingya Showkat reporter''s notebook
Some 750,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh with accounts of widespread murder, rape and arson [File: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Three Myanmar military officers have been found guilty by a court-martial investigating atrocities against the Rohingya in conflict-ridden Rakhine state, the army announced.

The rare action against members of the military on Tuesday comes as Myanmar faces charges of genocide at the UN’s top court over a brutal 2017 crackdown against the Rohingya.

Some 750,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh during the crackdown, carrying with them accounts of widespread murder, rape and arson.

Rights groups accused security forces of committing atrocities in various villages, including Gu Dar Pyin, where they alleged at least five shallow mass graves had been found.

After initially denying the allegations, the military started court-martial proceedings in September last year, admitting there had been “weakness in following instructions” in the village.

The commander-in-chief’s office announced on Tuesday that the court-martial had “confirmed the guilty verdict”, and sentenced three officers.

No details were provided on the perpetrators, their crimes, or sentences.

Estimates from survivors in Bangladesh put the death toll from the village in the hundreds.

The Myanmar government has largely supported the army’s justification of the 2017 operations as a means of rooting out alleged Rohingya fighters.

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi admitted at the International Court of Justice in December, however, that disproportionate force may have been used.

The military has maintained that any atrocities were committed by a few maverick individuals.

UN investigators also found evidence of extrajudicial killings in other Rakhine villages, Maung Nu and Chut Pyin.

The army chief’s office on Tuesday said a court of inquiry would “continue to investigate” events at both villages.

In 2018, the military sentenced members of the security forces to a decade in prison for the killing of 10 Rohingya in Inn Din village, but they were released after serving less than a year.

Two journalists who exposed that massacre were detained for more than 16 months before they were pardoned following a global outcry.

The state remains a flashpoint of ethnic and religious tensions, and the military has been locked in battle since January last year with armed groups fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

Intensified fighting over the weekend drew alarm from the UN on Sunday, which called for both sides to respect international humanitarian law as thousands more civilians fled their homes from artillery shelling.

Source: AFP