Ensure accountability for attacks on civilians in Myanmar: Fortify Rights


UNB, Dhaka :

All parties engaged in armed conflict in the Myanmar revolution should protect civilians, and member states of the International Criminal Court (ICC) should refer the situation in the country to the Chief Prosecutor under Article 14 of the Rome Statute, said Fortify Rights on Tuesday.

Fortify Rights documented indiscriminate attacks on civilians, killings, destruction of civilian homes, and forced displacement during a four-day-long attack by the Myanmar junta beginning January 25 in the predominately Rohingya-Muslim village of Hpon Nyo Leik in northern Rakhine State. These attacks may amount to war crimes.

“The laws of war apply to the junta’s forces and all parties to the conflict and, whenever possible, civilians must be warned of incoming attacks,” said John Quinley, Director at Fortify Rights.

“Our recent investigation suggests effective warnings of military attacks could have saved civilian lives. The junta’s atrocity crimes are a daily occurrence. ICC member states should urgently refer the situation to the Court and send a message to the junta that these attacks are unacceptable.”

The Myanmar military junta shelled Hpon Nyo Leik village in Buthidaung Township, northern Rakhine State for four consecutive days beginning January 25, 2024.

The attacks began after the Arakan Army (AA)—an ethnic resistance organization in Rakhine State—dug trenches in Hpon Nyo Leik on January 24.

The four days of shelling by the Myanmar military junta resulted in 44 civilian casualties—12 civilians killed and 32 injured, including at least eight children, all Rohingya.

According to sources on the ground, the attacks also displaced 15,000 civilians, including children, from Hpon Nyo Leik and surrounding areas.

A community-based worker and resident of Hpon Nyo Leik identified 41 civilian houses destroyed in the village, which had an estimated 1,000 houses.

The names and identifying information of the civilian victims and survivors of the attack as well as owners of the destroyed properties are on file with Fortify Rights. They should be compensated for their losses.


Fortify Rights believes the Myanmar junta’s Light Infantry Division (LID) 22, Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 551, and Military Operations Command (MOC)-15 are likely responsible for the attacks and should be investigated for war crimes.

In January and February 2024, Fortify Rights interviewed six Rohingya survivors of the attacks, including four residents of Hpon Nyo Leik village.

Fortify Rights also reviewed mobile-phone videos and dozens of photographs showing wounded civilian women, men, and children, as well as burning buildings and homes reportedly damaged from the attacks.

Hpon Nyo Leik residents told Fortify Rights that the AA dug trenches in the village on January 24.

“So many Rohingya were killed in my village,” a 22-year-old farmer from Hpon Nyo Leik village told Fortify Rights:
“I saw more than 10 dead in total. It was such heavy shelling that I and others didn’t dare to search for other dead or injured villagers. … I even found fragments of brain that went up to the roof of a two-story building. The junta’s shelling was that severe.”

The attacks forcibly displaced him and his family. He said: “When the shelling was getting heavier, my family and I escaped. … I couldn’t take any of my belongings. I had to leave everything behind in my village.”

In 2016 and 2017, the Myanmar military led genocidal attacks against Rohingya communities in northern Rakhine State and, in a span of weeks, forced more than 700,000 Rohingya survivors into Bangladesh.

On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military launched a deadly coup d’état, killing untold numbers of civilians and imprisoning tens of thousands of others in a bid to secure nationwide political power. The junta’s attacks against civilians continue and amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

International humanitarian law—also known as the laws of war—is applicable to the situation in Rakhine State and the broader revolution in Myanmar, which constitutes a non-international armed conflict.

In particular, the Geneva Conventions set forth fundamental rules regulating armed conflict conduct.

The laws of war also require all parties to armed conflict to take precautionary measures to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects. This includes providing effective warnings to civilian populations when circumstances permit.