ABSTRACT

In August 2017, the longstanding persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine state spiralled into mass killing, with an estimated 6,700 Rohingya murdered by state security forces and their local allies. The massacres were accompanied by the destruction of hundreds of villages and the expulsion or terrorization into a flight of nearly 700,000 Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh. Surely, the question of whether the Rohingya have been targeted for “genocide” is secondary to the need to organize the kind of widespread investigation, denunciation, and intervention that is necessary to return exiled Rohingya to their homes and communities in Myanmar. As the italicized phrase indicates, Raphael Lemkin downplayed the mass-killing component of genocide in favour of a broadly sociological understanding of group “destruction.” “Crimes against humanity,” first defined and prosecuted at the Nuremberg trials and now enshrined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, are a regular fallback for those reluctant to apply the Genocide Convention.