Atrocity Alert No. 70: Myanmar (Burma), Syria and Burundi

6 September 2017

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.

Myanmar (Burma)

The government of Myanmar (Burma) has been carrying out “clearance operations” in Rakhine State since Friday, 25 August, after an armed group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out coordinated attacks on multiple police posts and an army base. Since then there have been widespread reports of the security forces imposing collective punishment upon the ethnic Rohingya community in northern Rakhine, including the unlawful killing of civilians, mass displacement, sexual violence and the burning of villages.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, an estimated 146,000 refugees have fled Rakhine State since 25 August, mostly to Bangladesh. Satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch shows burning dwellings in at least 19 locations across northern Rakhine between 25 August and 3 September. This includes the Rohingya village of Chein Khar Li in Rathedaung township, which has been almost completely destroyed with approximately 700 buildings having been burnt. These actions may constitute a policy of ethnic cleansing directed against the Rohingya.

Recalling inter-communal violence between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists during World War II, army commander Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing referred to the clearance operations as “unfinished business.” States and organizations with significant political and economic ties to Myanmar need to call upon State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to immediately stop the killings and mass displacement, and ensure that the security forces adhere to international humanitarian and human rights law.

ARSA must also be held accountable for any attacks on unarmed civilians in Rakhine State.

It is also essential that the UN Security Council end its silence regarding the crisis engulfing Myanmar and take action to help end atrocities in Rakhine State.


Civilians in Ar-Raqqa city remain at grave risk as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of armed opposition groups, continue an offensive against the self-proclaimed capital of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The SDF launched the offensive on 6 June, with air support from a United States-led international coalition, resulting in intense fighting for neighborhoods that are under ISIL control.

On 31 August the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed serious concern that “civilians are paying an unacceptable price” in the liberation of Raqqa from ISIL. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that of 790 civilians killed in Syria throughout August, at least 397 – over fifty percent – were killed by coalition airstrikes. The vast majority of those airstrikes took place in Ar-Raqqa city.

Since June at least 75,000 people have been displaced from Raqqa city. ISIL is using the remaining 20,000 civilians trapped within the neighborhoods it still controls as human shields. ISIL snipers target civilians attempting to flee and neighborhoods across the city have been booby-trapped with improvised explosive devices.

The SDF and the United States-led coalition must ensure all necessary precautions are taken to avoid further civilian suffering in Raqaa. All military operations must be fully consistent with international law. All parties should also fully cooperate with the UN’s International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism established to assist in the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of atrocities in Syria.


The Human Rights Council-mandated Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Burundi announced on Monday, 4 September, that it believes that crimes against humanity have been committed in the country since April 2015. These violations include extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearances. The COI attributes responsibility for these crimes to the “highest level of the state,” including senior officials within the National Intelligence Services, police, military and Imbonerakure youth league. The COI also noted President Pierre Nkurunziza’s personal responsibility for decisions “that led to serious human rights violations.”

The COI argued that the Burundian authorities lack the will “to fight against impunity and guarantee the independence of the judiciary,” and called upon the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into the violations and abuses documented in their report.

As a current member of the Human Rights Council the government of Burundi has an obligation to cooperate with its investigative mechanisms, but refuses to do so. During its upcoming session the Human Rights Council should renew the mandate of the COI. The Security Council and the international community should impose targeted sanctions against all those who threaten peace and security in Burundi, including the list of suspected atrocity perpetrators supplied by the COI.

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


Sign up for our newsletter and stay up to date on R2P news and alerts

Follow us on social media


Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5203
New York, NY 10016-4309, USA

Phone: +1 212-817-1929 |
R2P Resources & Statements