-Fordham International Law Journal – May 2018
What is the correct word to contextualize the acts of Myanmar against the Rohingya population? Is it genocide? Crimes Against Humanity (CAH) under murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer? Or ethnic cleansing?
Various types of atrocities are often labelled under the crime of genocide (also called a crime of the crimes), even when they do not meet the term’s legal definition.
Genocide, CAH and ethnic cleansing each have a different mens rea. To qualify as genocide, a crime must be committed with a dolus specialis, or specific intent to eliminate, an entire group of people based on their ethnicity, nationality, race or religion. International criminal courts and tribunals have confirmed that this list of groups is conclusive.
Absent proof of this specific intent, perpetrators can still be found guilty of CAH or ethnic cleansing. This is because CAH are widespread and systematic attacks knowingly directed against any civilian population. At the same time, ethnic cleansing only refers to the expulsion of a group from a particular area and has not been defined and recognized as a separate crime under international law.