BURMA’s (Myanmar) military systematically raped and tortured women and girls as part of their campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Northern Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Thursday.
The 37-page report documents the gruesome stories of women who have fled the violence and are currently in refugee camps Bangladesh. Many women describe widespread gang-rape. They were also subjected to torture and humiliation and were, in many cases, forced to witness the murder of their young children, spouses, and parents.
“Rape has been a prominent and devastating feature of the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at HRW and author of the report, said in a statement.
“The Burmese military’s barbaric acts of violence have left countless women and girls brutally harmed and traumatised.”
HRW spoke to 52 Rohingya women and girls who fled to Bangladesh, 29 of whom said they had been raped. All but one of the rapes were gang rapes, HRW said.
Fatama Begum, currently in the Balukali refugee camp, Bangladesh, detailed how six men pinned her down and raped her.
“They… grabbed me by the mouth and held me still. He stuck a knife into my side and kept it there while the men were raping me. That was how they kept me in place … I was trying to move and [the wound] was bleeding more. They were threatening to shoot me,” she said.
The allegation in the report echoes an accusation by Pramila Patten, the UN special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, earlier this week. Patten said sexual violence was “being commanded, orchestrated and perpetrated by the Armed Forces of Myanmar.”
Burma’s army, however, released a report on Monday denying all allegations of rape and killings by security forces, days after replacing the general in charge of the operation that drove more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.
HRW called on the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Burma and targeted sanctions against military leaders responsible for human rights violations, including sexual violence.
The 15-member council last week urged the Burma government to “ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine state.” It asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report back on the situation in 30 days
Burma has said that the so-called military “clearing operation” was necessary for national security after Rohingya militants attacked 30 security posts and an army base in Rakhine state on Aug 25.
The country has refused entry to a UN panel that was tasked with investigating allegations of abuses after a smaller military counteroffensive launched in October 2016.
Additional reporting by Reuters