The recent attack by Burmese junta troops on a school, which claimed the lives of 12 children, could be a war crime, according to UN experts who are trying to collect evidence to establish responsibilities.
Armed attacks that target civilians are prohibited by international law of war and can be punished as war crimes or crimes against humanity
,” say experts from the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Burma.
However, they do not yet provide a firm conclusion.
Read alsoBurma: at least eleven children dead in an air attack
The attack killed twelve children and two adults on September 16, according to testimonies collected including by AFP from survivors.
It occurred in a hamlet in the town of Depeyin, in the region of Sagaing (north-west), the scene of fierce clashes between the Burmese army and rebel groups.
According to information from experts, the attack lasted several hours and the helicopters, in support of the infantry, used rockets and machine guns.
The infantry then continued the attack.
Violation of the laws of war
The Myanmar military says the attack did not target civilians but rather armed rebels who were believed to have been present at the school, say independent experts.
Even if that were the case and the armed attack had a military objective, it is prohibited under the laws of war if it is expected to cause civilian injury or death excessive in relation to the expected direct military advantage gained by the attack
,” they explain.
They recall that military commanders who intentionally or recklessly neglect their obligations, as well as any soldier or pilot who follows an order knowing that it is disproportionate, expose themselves to prosecution.
The fact that the school was a target specifically required "
confirming the existence and nature of any possible military targets, assessing the number of civilians in the area, and adopting means and methods to minimize the risk of harming them
, insist the investigators.