PHR Medical Evaluations of Rohingya Survivors Point to Crimes Against Humanity
07/20/2018A body of forensic medical evidence released today clearly indicates that Rohingya Muslims suffered grave human rights abuses at the hands of Myanmar security forces and Rakhine Buddhist civilians. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which issued the evidence in a new report, said the actions should be investigated as crimes against humanity.
Entitled, “Please Tell the World What They Have Done to Us” - The Chut Pyin Massacre: Forensic Evidence of Violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar,” the report reveals the findings of forensic medical evaluations of 22 Rohingya survivors of a bloody August 2017 assault on the village of Chut Pyin in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.
The carnage in Chut Pyin was part of a wave of attacks on Rohingya villages that reportedly killed thousands of people and pushed at least 720,000 Rohingya refugees over the border into neighboring Bangladesh from August 2017 to June 2018. PHR’s report, part of an expansive forensic study covering 25 villages and more than 100 cases, contributes to the growing international effort to document and investigate allegations of atrocities against the Rohingya so that those who committed the crimes can be held accountable.
The report features in-depth testimonies and analyses of injuries sustained by surviving residents of Chut Pyin. The various injuries, including gunshot wounds, blunt-force trauma, lacerations and more, serve as medical evidence to corroborate the survivors’ accounts of shootings, beatings, stabbings, and other forms of violence which occurred on that day.
“We saw multiple gunshot wounds that are consistent with people having been shot while fleeing, and heard numerous accounts of rape and other sexual violence. We rigorously and meticulously analyzed the injuries, first-hand testimonies, and eyewitness accounts, and all our forensic examinations were highly consistent with the events that the survivors described,” explained Homer Venters, MD, PHR’s director of programs, who led the team of doctors who conducted the forensic medical evaluations in Thangkali refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area.
“The power of science, of medicine, is that injuries do not lie. Each laceration, blunt-force trauma, burn, and gunshot wound tells a story, and we use this forensic medical evidence to shed light on what likely happened on that day,” Venters added.
The survivors’ testimonies are compelling, with victims recounting similar experiences, or corroborating others’ accounts. Some used maps to indicate exactly where they were at the time of the attack and where they were injured or hid until neighbors or relatives rescued them.
“It hurt so much. I had so much bleeding and the place was flooded with blood,” said a 12-year-old girl who was shot along with her two younger brothers. The three lost their parents and two other siblings in the attack. Another survivor, a 35-year-old woman, told PHR: “I saw they threw a two- or three-month-old baby into the fire. When the mother cried aloud, they shot the mother dead.” A 19-year-old man said: “Parents were killed. Brothers and sisters were killed. Even small children were burned in the fire.”
Seventeen of the 22 survivors evaluated by PHR suffered at least one gunshot wound and nine of them had their mobility severely affected as a result of being attacked.
“The ordeal didn’t stop when the massacre ended. These survivors had to make their way to safety – many of them traveling up to 12 days on foot to get across the border to Bangladesh, where they are now living in refugee camps under very challenging conditions. They suffered infection and other medical complications on the way that likely only exacerbated the injuries and further increased the impact that the violence had on their lives,” Venters explained.
Survivors also reported that, in the wake of the attacks, soldiers searched for doctors in neighboring villages in order to arrest wounded Rohingya survivors. “They looked for people with bullet wounds in order to erase the evidence. We are the witnesses to reveal their crimes, so they wanted to kill those survivors,” said a 20-year-old woman whose baby was shot dead in her arms.
PHR’s report brings a unique medical and forensic voice to accounts of the August 2017 wave of attacks on Rohingya communities in Myanmar. The report concludes that not only did a range of human rights violations take place in the village of Chut Pyin – including killings and executions; detentions and disappearances; physical assault; rape and other sexual violence; ethnic and religious discrimination; and forcible displacement, followed by looting and burning of homes – several of the survivors, among them many women and children, faced multiple violations during a six-and-a-half hour gruesome attack.
Taking the history of the Rohingya in Myanmar into account, PHR was able to marry its forensic examinations with credible information from local sources, as well as the consistent and detailed testimonies of survivors, to come to one conclusion: that Chut Pyin is a prime example of a brutal campaign of violence carried out by Myanmar authorities against the Rohingya people, and that what happened in Chut Pyin, and elsewhere in Rakhine state, should be investigated as crimes against humanity.
“The international community must support an impartial and independent investigation into crimes against humanity to bring those accountable to justice. The government of Myanmar must immediately cease all human rights violations against individuals and communities in Rakhine state and throughout Myanmar, as well as investigate and prosecute all violations in accordance with international human rights law. Adequate safeguards to prevent future discrimination against ethnic minorities must be put into place and sustainable conditions need to be created to allow for a safe, dignified, and voluntary return for Rohingya refugees before any repatriation can even be considered,” Venters said.
Read the full digital report here.
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.