UN investigators said Tuesday that the Myanmar junta commanders who ordered an attack this month on a school that left a dozen children dead could be liable for war crimes.
The investigators pointed to multiple reports indicating that the school, located in the compound of a monastery, came under attack for several hours, first from helicopters firing rockets and machine guns, followed by an infantry attack.
The United Nations' Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) said in a statement that the September 16 attack in Let Yet Kone village in the northwestern Sagaing region "may be considered a war crime with commanders criminally liable."
Myanmar has been in chaos since the military seized power in a coup in February last year, with nearly 2,300 civilians killed in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.
The IIMM, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018 to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes, said it was working to "assess criminal responsibility" for the attack.
"Armed attacks that target civilians are prohibited by international laws of war and can be punished as war crimes or crimes against humanity," the statement said.
Teachers from the school told AFP that some children were playing outside while others attended classes as two helicopter gunships flew in and opened fire with machine guns and heavy weapons.
The investigators stressed that commanders who launch a military attack near civilians have obligations under international law, including taking all possible precautions to minimise harm to non-combatants.