Accused Of Abduction, Deaths Of Rohingyas
Saleem Samad :
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is accused of abducting Rohingya refugees, arbitrary detention and torture of people, and attacks on women aid worker.
Operating under their former name Harakh al-Yaqin (meaning Faith Movement in English) in 2016 and as ARSA in 2017, the group claimed responsibility for two coordinated attacks on Myanmar police posts in northern Rakhine State - on October 9, 2016, and August 25, 2017 -sparking widespread Myanmar military-led attacks on Rohingyas that tantamount to the war crimes.
In March last, ARSA admitted their crime against humanity in a video message posted on social media urging its members and Rohingya refugees to refrain from "crimes, such as fighting, killing, etc." in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
In the video message acknowledged crimes but disavowed responsibilities for them, saying that those committing the crimes "are not only going against the Bangladesh government but are also making ARSA responsible for their own crimes."
Fortify Rights, works for refugee rights in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Bangladesh, urged Bangladesh government and the UN refugee agency should provide protection and support for Rohingya family members whose relatives were abducted, killed, or threatened by ARSA.
Militants targeted Rohingya women aid workers and their family members as well as Rohingya religious leaders and other individuals who have expressed critical views of ARSA or are believed to be "informants" for Bangladesh or Myanmar authorities.
Fortify Rights, a joint Switzerland/United States international rights organisation, documented the abduction of a Rohingya religious leader from his shelter in a refugee camp in Bangladesh in July 2018 after the co-authored a 21-page fatwa - a legal opinion or ruling on Islamic law issued by an Islamic authority - opposing armed opposition in Rakhine State in October 2017.
Earlier, ARSA released a publication in English on Twitter, stating that the group will "abide by the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and will continue to refrain from any activities going against the IHL." The 69-page report condemned human trafficking, the illicit drug trade, the dowry system, and child abuse.
Amnesty International claimed that Rohingya Muslim militants in Myanmar had killed 99 Hindu civilians in one, or possibly two massacres. ARSA had denied their involvement.
"When Rohingya militants abduct, torture, and threaten Rohingya civilians, they mirror the Myanmar Army," said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights in a probe report. "Perpetrators of these crimes should be held accountable in fair and impartial trials."
Rohingya refugees told Fortify Rights that in Bangladesh, ARSA is mostly operational in refugee camps that are inaccessible by road, where the members "do whatever they want."
Aside from ARSA, there are several small Rohingya militant groups in Bangladesh that have also shown fear among Rohingya refugees, said Fortify Rights. None of the militant groups appear to be well-trained or well-resourced and their ties to each other or outsiders are unknown.
(Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award. Twitter @saleemsamad; Email: email@example.com)