Ratko Mladic, the Butcher of Bosnia, has just been found guilty of genocide.
“The former general was charged for the slaughter of 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men and boys rounded up in the town of Srebrenica, and his forces’ 43-month siege of Sarajevo in which thousands of civilians were killed by artillery, mortar, tank and sniper fire.
How did they prove the number of casualties in Srebrenica? The answer: There was an extensive investigation by the International Commission on Missing Persons. The ICMP was established at the behest of US President Bill Clinton and it now covers other conflicts around the world.
Based on victims’ interviews, it is self-evident that Myanmar’s military regime has committed genocide against the Rohingya. However, to be substantiated, and for the perpetrators to be arrested and tried, this too must be investigated. Evidence admissible in court must be collected.
The United Nations announced in September that it would investigate crimes against the Rohingya. However, UN investigators were blocked from going to northern Rakhine state where the military crackdown is taking place. The investigators could instead be working in the Bangladeshi refugee camps, which would of course make sense since this is where the Rohingya survivors of the crimes have fled.
Bangladesh is forming the Citizen’s Commission for Investigating Genocide and Terrorism in Burma (Myanmar). It plans to interview a sizeable sample of 10,000 survivors among the 620,000 who have fled, and publish a report early next year. That should provide eyewitness accounts from every village and town that has been attacked, to extrapolate the total number of crimes starting with the worst: murders and rapes.
I would also implore media covering the Rohingya crisis to question the UN about the status of its investigation. Does it have teams in the refugee camps? How many people have been interviewed? What is the overall investigation plan, and when do they expect to publish a report?
There may also be investigations underway by other agencies and human rights groups. These would be extremely useful as well. There needs to be as much documentation as possible. Once again, for legal verification that the Rohingya have been subjected to genocide, and to prosecute the criminals who are responsible, this work must be completed.