NEW YORK – This week, The Lancet Planetary Health, a leading scientific journal focused on policy action for planetary health, published the complete findings of a quantitative survey conducted by Physicians for Human Rights. The survey documented the scale and scope of attacks against the Rohingya in August 2017, which led more than 720,000 people to flee into neighboring Bangladesh, and concluded that the attacks were widespread and systematic.
In an unprecedented effort, the survey interviewed 604 leaders from 590 Rohingya hamlets, covering roughly 91,000 households and 900,000 people in northern Rakhine state. The survey shows that 88 percent of respondents reported incidents of violence in their hamlets. Ninety-one percent of them noted blunt force trauma such as beatings or penetrating injuries from weapons including machetes, knives, and sticks. Fifty-five percent of leaders reported people shot, 28 percent highlighted rape and other forms of sexual violence, 77 percent stated that violence was the main reason for their flight from Myanmar to Bangladesh, and 87 percent identified Myanmar military forces as the perpetrators in their communities.
The article, “Violence and Mortality in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar, 2017: Results of a Quantitative Survey of Surviving Community Leaders in Bangladesh,” was published in Volume 3, Issue 3 of the journal.
“The quantitative results of our survey confirm that the Rohingya ethnic minority faced widespread human rights violations – namely murder and enforced disappearances, torture, rape and other sexual violence, and forcible transfer – which should be investigated as crimes against humanity,” said Tamaryn Nelson, senior researcher at PHR and one of the article authors.
Nelson added, “Physicians and scientists are in a key position to document human rights violations, and these survey findings provide critical documentation supporting the call by PHR and other human rights organizations for an independent and impartial mechanism to collect data for criminal investigations. Plans to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees cannot be made until those who are responsible are held to account, and the survivors’ safety is assured.”
Both at the United Nations and in Congress, calls for accountability are being made. This week at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, a resolution was introduced which “calls upon the Myanmar authorities, in particular the military and security forces, to end immediately violence and all violations of international law in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.” The resolution also “calls for the expeditious entry into operation” of an independent mechanism established by the Human Rights Council to investigate human rights violations in Myanmar.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, PHR’s Europe director, said, “We commend the countries who introduced and co-sponsored the ‘Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar’ resolution. It is incumbent, as a part of the process for justice, that the resolution passes.”
In Washington this week, a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin requesting information from the Trump administration on its policy and efforts to seek accountability for atrocities against the Rohingya. The letter urges the imposition of additional targeted sanctions and visa bans against senior-most Myanmar military officials in line with recommendations from the UN and human rights organizations.
Additional PHR Resources on the Rohingya crisis:
• “Myanmar Military’s Massacre Denial Complex,” published in Asia Times, March 21, 2019, by Phelim Kine, Director of Research and Investigations at PHR
• Blog Post: “Investment Whitewash for Rohingya Bloodshed,” Feb. 26, 2019
• Press Release: “PHR to UN Rapporteur: Press for Rohingya Safety and Justice,” Jan. 16, 2019
• Report: “Widespread and Systematic: Violence Against the Rohingya in Myanmar,” August 30, 2018
• Report: “‘Please Tell the World What They Have Done to Us’: The Chut Pyin Massacre: Forensic Evidence of Violence Against the Rohingya in Myanmar,” July 19, 2019
• Press Release: “PHR Reiterates Need for Investigation Before Any Repatriation of Rohingya Refugees,” April 16, 2018
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.