Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity in its campaign against Muslims in Rakhine state, Human Rights Watch [HRW] said on Tuesday, calling for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo.
A government spokesman was not immediately available for comment but Myanmar has rejected UN accusations that its forces are engaged in ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims.
The military campaign has sent nearly 440,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, most of them Rohingya. Security forces and Buddhist vigilantes are trying to drive Rohingya Muslims out of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
"The Burmese military is brutally expelling the Rohingya from northern Rakhine State," said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch.
"The massacres of villagers and mass arson driving people from their homes are all crimes against humanity."
In this respect, the International Criminal Court defines crimes against humanity as acts including murder, torture, rape and deportation "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack".
Human Rights Watch said its research, supported by analysis of satellite imagery, had found crimes of deportation and forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder, rape and other sexual assault and persecution.
"Attaching a legal label to the ghastly crimes ... may seem inconsequential," Ross said. "But global recognition that crimes against humanity are taking place should stir the UN and concerned governments to action."
The UN Security Council and concerned countries should urgently impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Myanmar military, the group added.
The violence in Rakhine State and the refugee exodus is the biggest crisis the government of Aung San Suu Kyi has faced since it came to power last year in a transition from nearly 50 years of harsh military rule.
Myanmar regards the Rohingya Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and communal violence has flared periodically for decades. Most Rohingya are stateless.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team