The international rights group said on Tuesday that Myanmar’s security forces have committed “serious violations” that include rape and other sexual violence, murder, forced deportation and persecution of the Rohingya.
“The Burmese [Myanmar] military is brutally expelling the Rohingya from northern Rakhine State,” James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch said.
In the past, HRW has also accused Buddhist monks in the area, as well as Myanmar security forces of “crimes against humanity”.
“Attaching a legal label to the ghastly crimes … may seem inconsequential,” Ross said.
“But global recognition that crimes against humanity are taking place should stir the UN and concerned governments to action.”
Nearly 440,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh since Myanmar’s army launched a military campaign in response to an attack by Rohingya fighters on dozens of police posts and an army base on August 25.
Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as Myanmar’s military, have faced widespread international condemnation over its treatment of the Rohingya.
The UN has called the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh “the most urgent refugee emergency in the world”.
The mainly Muslim minority, who live primarily in Rakhine State, is not recognised as an ethnic group in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay rejected HRW’s accusations, saying no other Myanmar government was as committed to the promotion of rights as much as the current one.