20 January 2020
The Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) held its 15th meeting on 20 January 2020 in Nay Pyi Taw. It met for the last time before submitting its Final Report.
The ICOE signed and submitted its Final Report to H.E. U Win Myint, President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar at the Presidential Palace, Nay Pyi Taw, in the presence of Union Ministers for the Office of the State Counsellor and Office of the Union Government.
The ICOE also met with H.E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
The ICOE’s Final Report covers the context and historical background of Rakhine State; the inter-communal violence of 2012, and armed conflict of 2016 and 2017; findings of the ICOE’s Evidence Collection and Verification Team (ECVT); measures to establish accountability; principal observations; and 22 recommendations.
The principal observations of the ICOE concern the following topics: wide gaps in the narratives; allegations of human rights violations, ‘ethnic cleansing’, and ‘genocide’; disproportionate or excessive use of force; mass displacement of Muslims; internally displaced persons; lack of social cohesion or unity; quality control in conflict-related fact-finding; and international courts.
The report makes reference to the mass displacement of persons who fled to Bangladesh in 1978-79 and 1991-92, and the further cycle of violence in Rakhine State since 2012.
The full report analyzes in detail the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s (ARSA’s) attacks and the subsequent response by Myanmar’s Defence Services and Police Force from 25 August to 5 September 2017. It shows that the scale of armed violence was such that there was an internal armed conflict.
The ARSA’s attacks on 25 August 2017 targeted 30 police outposts and stations and one military battalion headquarters in northern Rakhine State. In the following days, attacks took place against 26 additional police outposts and stations. There were subsequent armed incidents in approximately 60 locations when Myanmar’s Defence Services responded to the 25 August 2017 attacks by ARSA-fighters and collaborators.
The ICOE has attached great importance to accessing information on the ground and collecting statements from the affected communities and witnesses of violence, as well as from various authorities. The ICOE’s ECVTs were dispatched to Rakhine State, Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw for evidence collection. The ICOE has been able to interview about 1,500 witnesses from various communities in northern Rakhine State, including Muslims, Rakhine, Mro and Daingnet, and military and police personnel.
The internal armed conflict between the Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar’s Defence Services in Rakhine State since January 2019 has affected the ICOE’s field work.
The ICOE concludes, on the basis of the information available to it and of the investigations carried out in northern Rakhine State and elsewhere, that war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law took place during the security operations between 25 August and 5 September 2017. Although these serious crimes and violations were committed by multiple actors, there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of Myanmar’s security forces were involved. ARSA’s initial attacks – drawing on a very large number of mobilized villagers – provoked the response by Myanmar’s security forces. The killing of innocent villagers and destruction of their homes were committed by some members of Myanmar’s security forces through disproportionate use of force during the internal armed conflict.
The ICOE has not found any evidence suggesting that these killings or acts of displacement were committed pursuant to an intent or plan to destroy the Muslim or any other community in northern Rakhine State. There is insufficient evidence to argue, much less conclude, that the crimes committed were undertaken with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, or with any other requisite mental state for the international crime of genocide. The ECVT findings reveal no indication of a pattern of conduct from which one could reasonably conclude that the acts were committed with ‘genocidal intent’.
The full report counts 461 pages, including 31 annexes. Among the annexes are more than a dozen case files which provide a basis for the requisite further investigations by the Union Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Judge Advocate General. The Myanmar Government and Myanmar’s Defence Services must continue their respective investigations, taking into account the ECVTs’ findings.
The ICOE is grateful for the cooperation and support received from the Myanmar Government, including the President’s Office, Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor, Myanmar’s Defence Services, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, and other ministries.
The ICOE is also grateful to national and international organizations and national and international experts for their valuable information and advice.
Office of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE)
Nay Pyi Taw
20 January 2020
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