YANGON – Myanmar violated its obligations to the United Nations child rights convention in its crackdown on the Rohingya that led to an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people from the minority community, legal experts have found.
Children make up around half of the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since the start of a military crackdown last August.
The UN has called the Myanmar military operations a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Myanmar denies the allegation and has said it waged a legitimate counter-insurgency operation after Muslim militants attacked security posts.
Legal experts commissioned by Save the Children Norway analyzed research by U.N. bodies and international human rights groups who have alleged that mass killings, arson, and torture were conducted by Myanmar security forces on the Rohingya.
“The research finds that the response by the Myanmar Government to the August 2017 attacks on police posts, together with the ongoing discrimination against Rohingya, constitute violations of at least seven key articles of the (UN convention on the rights of the child),” their report said.
The analysis found both the government and the security forces at fault. The Myanmar government “took positive steps” to assist the military operations and there was no evidence to suggest it did anything to curtail or condemn the security forces’ actions, the report said.
Myanmar acceded to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child in 1991 and is bound to it by law. Representatives of the Myanmar government and military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The violations highlighted in the report include failure to protect children from violence, abuse, neglect, sexual and other exploitation, inhumane treatment and detention.
It refers to “indiscriminate and extrajudicial killing of Rohingya children, and the torture, ill-treatment and gender-based violence” committed against them.
The government’s failure to conduct an independent investigation into the events following the August 2017 attacks, and ongoing discrimination against Rohingya children by denying them citizenship also are in violation of Myanmar’s obligations to the child rights convention, the report said.
The report was shared exclusively with Reuters ahead of its release next week.
“The list of violations we have found is not exhaustive,” said Guy Goodwin-Gill, emeritus professor of international refugee law at Oxford University, who co-authored the report.
“It represents only the most serious violations and there most likely are several others.”