Massacre of Hindus by Rohingya in Myanmar could be 'international crime': UN investigator
United Nations: The massacre of 99 Hindus by a Rohingya group in Myanmar could qualify as an international crime, according to the UN official carrying out investigations of serious human rights violations there.
Asked on Monday about the 2017 atrocity documented by Amnesty International, Nicholas Koumjian, the head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), said: "The incident you're talking about, a massacre of close to 100 people is obviously very serious and could qualify as an international crime."
"We are looking at actions by non-state actors" and that particular incident "was very serious and absolutely deserving of attention," he said.
"The incident that you're talking about, we're very well aware of," he said, but added, "I'm not going to go into (it) because I don't list every incident we're working on for a variety of reasons".
Amnesty International reported that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) killed 99 Hindus -- women, men, and children -- and abducted several Hindu villagers inside Myanmar's Rakhine State in August 2017.
ARSA is led by Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, a Karachi-born Rohingya.
The massacre of the Hindus has not received much international attention or widespread condemnation as have other atrocities in Myanmar.
The "investigation on the ground sheds much-needed light on the largely under-reported human rights abuses by ARSA during northern Rakhine State's unspeakably dark recent history", Amnesty International's Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan said when the organisation released the report in 2018 on the killings of Hindus the previous year.
The IMM was created by the UN Human Rights Council to "to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law and prepare files for criminal prosecution".
Koumjian said that the IMM has not been allowed to carry out investigations inside Myanmar.
Since it was created in the aftermath of the 2017 actions by Myanmar against the Rohingya, Koumjian said that the IMM devotes "a lot of our resources to investigating those crimes".
"But we also have a mandate to collect evidence of the most serious crimes across the country and there's a long history of crimes by the military in particular against civilian populations in different parts of the country, particularly the border areas," he added.
Since the civilian government led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown in 2019, "the number of crimes has unfortunately increased", he said.
He said: "They're increasingly brazen, but particularly we've seen many burnings of villages. aerial and other bombardments of civilian areas. And we, we've also seen the arrests and torture of opponents of the regime and the air many instances of military forces taking over an area capturing individuals."
The massacre of the Hindus by the ARSA happened around the time of the provocative ARSA attacks on Myanmar security outposts that brought on reprisals by Myanmar forces on a far higher scale.
According to the UN, about 10,000 Rohingyas have been killed and about 700,000 had to flee their homes, most stranded in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Amnesty International said that its 2018 report on the massacre of the Hindus was "based on dozens of interviews conducted there and across the border in Bangladesh, as well as photographic evidence analysed by forensic pathologists".
Its report documented two attacks.
In Ah Nauk Kha Maung Seik village on August 25, 2917, 53 Hindus, including 14 children under the age of eight, were killed "execution-style", the report said.
"Eight Hindu women and eight of their children were abducted and spared, after ARSA fighters forced the women to agree to 'convert' to Islam," the report said.
Those victims were later repatriated to Myanmar.
In the neighbouring village Ye Bauk Kyar, 46 Hindus "disappeared" and are presumed killed, bringing the total toll on that day to 99, according to the report.