The Rohingya, described by the United Nations as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012. The picture of the September 1, 2017 massacre was obtained from a Buddhist village elder, and authenticated by witnesses.
According to Fortify Rights, privates Myo Win Tun, 33, and Zaw Naing Tun, 30, who served in separate light infantry battalions, gave "the names and ranks of 19 direct perpetrators from the Myanmar army, including themselves, as well as six senior commanders ... they claim ordered or contributed to atrocity crimes against Rohingya".
He admitted that his unit carried out the order but raped the women first before killing them along with the children and the elderly.
"This is the first time that Myanmar soldiers are coming forward in this way", said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights, hoping to see this as a beginning for others to step forward as well, after all; this military campaign against the Rohingya Muslims have forced over 730,000 of them to flee their country, seeking refuge where they can.
The confessions were filmed separately by The Arakan Army-an ethnic armed group now engaged in armed conflict with the Myanmar Army in Rakhine State.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape "clearance campaign", as dubbed by the country's military, after a Rohingya insurgent group launched an attack. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights. The killings were sanctioned by his battalion commander, Lieutenant colonel Myo Myint Aung, he said. His unit of roughly 80 troops was told "to kill all, irrespective of children and adults", he says.
Fortify Rights said the two deserters arrived at Myanmar's border with Bangladesh in mid-August and asked Bangladesh authorities for protection. Bangladesh officials then notified the International Criminal Court about their presence, and said they are no longer in Bangladesh, according to Fortify Rights.
The two soldiers are now in the custody of the International Criminal Court and will either be prosecuted for their crimes or will stand as witnesses in the prosecution of their senior military officers. And they portray a concerted, calculated operation to exterminate a single ethnic minority group, the issue at the heart of ongoing genocide cases.
"No. These reports are not correct. We don't have these persons in the ICC custody", said the spokesman, Fadi el Abdallah.
Payam Akhavan, a Canadian lawyer representing Bangladesh in a filing against Myanmar at the ICC, said the two men had appeared at a border post requesting the protection of the government and had confessed to the mass murder and rape of Rohingya civilians in 2017.
"All I can say is that those two individuals are no longer in Bangladesh", he said.
Under the legal doctrine of command responsibility, higher-ranking officers are held responsible for heinous acts carried out by those serving under them.
The International Court of Justice is the UN's top court.
Both courts are based in The Hague in the Netherlands.
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