At least six Myanmar army chiefs must be prosecuted for genocide against Rohingya Muslims, a UN report said on Monday, amounting the strongest language yet from UN officials on the human rights violations.
Investigators, working under a mandate from the UN-backed Human Rights Council, called for an international investigation, for the Security Council to impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the entire country.
At a press conference, the mission said the actions in Myanmar account to the "gravest crimes under international law," stating that "criminal prosecution is warranted," under the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The mission also said that to expect justice from a domestic investigation in Myanmar is "simply naive, there is no accountability and there is no impartiality."
The report is fiercely critical of the Myanmar government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, stating it "contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes", and Mrs Suu Kyi did not use her position to stem or prevent the crimes against the Rohingya.
Referring to Mrs Suu Kyi's culpability, the investigators state that "if the Nobel prize winner has such moral authority, perhaps she should act," but clarified that the biggest share of blame is placed on the military.
"Myanmar's top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States," the report said.
Read our special report on displaced Rohingya Muslims in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh:
Genocide has a complex definition under the Genocide Convention, which Myanmar has ratified. The report found evidence of four out of five possible genocidal acts, and "the necessary genocidal intent is present in Rakhine state."
The four genocidal acts that were found were killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting group conditions with intent to bring about its physical destruction, and measures to prevent births within the group.
Examples of genocidal intent included oppressive context, hate rhetoric, exclusionary policies, a high level of organisation, and the extreme scale and brutality of the violence.
The commander-in-chief of the army said the "clearance operation was defined as completing an unfinished job of solving the long-standing Bengali problem," which the mission say is an example of genocidal intent. The group says, however, as with most cases of genocide, there is no "smoking gun."
Facebook was a key outlet in which hate speech was propagated against the Rohingya Muslims, the mission said. The social media platform worked with the mission and has made attempts to take down hate speech.
The three-member "fact-finding mission" compiled more than 875 accounts by displaced Rohingya, satellite footage, videos, photographs, and forensic experts to assemble the report.
The group was denied access to Myanmar by the government, and repeated attempts to communicate with Myanmar's mission to the UN in Geneva were not met with a reply.
But the group says the people they spoke to in Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh had the same information they would have had if they had been given access to the country.
The report was published about a year after the violence against Rohingya Muslims occurred in Rakhine state, however, the mission was set up in March 2017, nearly six months before the alleged genocide occurred.
Members of the mission reported sexual abuse in Myanmar for almost three decades. Radhika Coomaraswamy, a member of the fact-finding mission, conducted interviews with the victims of sexual abuse, and said: "their tears will remain with me for many years to come."
A longer report is to be published in the coming weeks and will be presented to a UN council on September 18.
In late August 2017, rebels from the Rohingya Muslim community took up arms, denouncing ill-treatment of the stateless minority.
In response, Myanmar troops launched a bloody offensive, killing thousands, burning settlements and causing more than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya to flee.