Special Circumstances Require Special Efforts for Accountability

In light of the continuing crisis in northern Rakhine State, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) held a special session on 5 December, 2017, issuing a resolution condemning “alleged systematic and gross violations of human rights and abuses committed against persons belonging to the Rohingya Muslim community and other minorities in Myanmar[1] .”

The resolution outlines the violations committed in a “systematic, targeted and deliberate manner by security forces,” including “disproportionate use of force, extrajudicial and summary killings, including of children, sexual violence, including rape, indiscriminate firing of weapons and the planting of landmines, the destruction of property, livelihoods and futures, disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, attacks on places of worship and religious intolerance, resulting in large-scale forced displacement and indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

A “systematic, targeted and deliberate manner by security forces,” including “disproportionate use of force, extrajudicial and summary killings, including of children, sexual violence, including rape, indiscriminate firing of weapons and the planting of landmines, the destruction of property, livelihoods and futures, disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, attacks on places of worship and religious intolerance, resulting in large-scale forced displacement and indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

The special session comes as Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a bilateral agreement for the repatriation of over 640,000 Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar. Given the extremity of the violence that has been inflicted in northern Rakhine State by the Myanmar Army, and given that Rohingya refugees are still arriving in Bangladesh, there is a huge concern that any return would put the lives of returnees in further danger. The condition outlined in the agreement that returnees must prove their residency is a deliberately flawed point inserted by the Myanmar authorities to ensure that the process is almost impossible since many in the Rohingya community have been deprived of any such proof of residency for generations while those who had such documentation have had it taken away from them, or lost it amid the violence and burning of their villages. This only adds support to the conviction of the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Right that this is “ethnic cleansing.”

Aid agencies have also raised the issue that for those who do return, separated, isolated camps that are ostensibly temporary will become permanent and stated that they would boycott such conditions. They also released a statement outlining the conditions that must be met for a safe and dignified return – conditions that are far from being met. The reality is that the Myanmar authorities and the majority of the public in Myanmar do not want these people in their country and the few that might be able to prove their previous residence and return will likely face a situation where they are living in closed off camps for many years.

While the HRC resolution calls for Myanmar to “take all measures necessary to provide justice to victims, ensure the full accountability of perpetrators and end impunity for all violations and abuses of human rights,” accountability for such violations will not be found within domestic mechanisms. The Myanmar Army’s own internal investigation – in an Orwellian move – completely exonerated itself last month from any wrongdoing. A report produced by Progressive Voice, Action Committee for Democracy Development, and Smile Education and Development Foundation analyzing the performance of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) outlined the glaring failure of the commission to address the violations committed by the Myanmar Army. The MNHRC won’t even use the term Rohingya and instead used ‘Bengali’ in its report after an investigation in northern Rakhine State in September 2017 and even worse, it recommended further security outposts and personnel to be established in the areas. Put simply there is no political will within the Government for taking such measures for accountability and the impunity of the Myanmar Army remains entrenched – despite the atrocities it continues to commit.

Hence it is vital, in the absence of any adequate avenues for accountability within Myanmar, that the international community takes action. The Myanmar Army must be sanctioned, including by a UN Security Council imposed global arms embargo, bilateral targeted sanctions, ending all military cooperation and engagement,  and imposing visa bans as well as financial sanctions against individuals that are perpetrators of the atrocities. Furthermore, all available international accountability mechanisms must be utilized to demonstrate that while perpetrators may enjoy impunity domestically, crimes against humanity will not be tolerated internationally.

The Myanmar Army must be sanctioned, including by a UN Security Council imposed global arms embargo, bilateral targeted sanctions, ending all military cooperation and engagement,  and imposing visa bans as well as financial sanctions against individuals that are perpetrators of the atrocities.

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[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week

actions

Statements and Press Releases

U.S. Statement at the UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Burma
By Ambassador Kelley E. Currie, US Representative to the UN

Myanmar: UN Rights Body Must Take Strong Stand on Rohingya
By Amnesty International

UN: China Fails to Scupper Resolution on Myanmar’s Persecution of Rohingya
By Amnesty International

House Passes Resolution Condemning Myanmar Military’s Atrocities Against Rohingya
By Amnesty International

ICAR and ALTSEAN-Burma Launch Comprehensive Study of Business and Human Rights Laws and Practices in Myanmar
By ALTSEAN-Burma and International Corporate Accountability Roundtable

House Condemns Burma’s Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya
By Foreign Affairs Committee

HURFOM Releases “‘I Still Remember’: Desires for Acknowledgement and Justice for Past and Ongoing Human Rights Violations in Mon areas of southern Burma”
By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

UN Rights Body Send Strong Message to Burma
By Human Rights Watch

Statement to the Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the “Situation of human rights of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in Rakhine State of Myanmar”
By Marzuki Darusman Chair, Independent International Fact-Finding

ND-Burma statement on International Human Rights Day: “We are Ready to Help Deliver Justice for Burma’s many Victims of Human Rights Violations”
By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma

နုိင္ငံတကာလူ႔အခြင့္အေရးေန႔အတြက္ ND-Burma ၏ ထုုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma

Human Rights Council opens special session on the situation of human rights of the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State in Myanmar
By Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Council condemns alleged systematic and gross violations of human rights against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar
By Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Council concludes twenty-seventh special session on the human rights situation of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar
By Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Myanmar: UN human rights chief calls for international criminal investigation of perpetrators of violence against Rohingya
By Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

27th Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council – Oral Statement on the human rights situation in Burma/Myanmar
By R. Iniyan Ilango on behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Conectas Direitos Humanos and International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism

Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in the Rakhine State of Myanmar
By UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

McCollum Condemns Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya, Urges Resolution to Humanitarian Crisis
By US Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Statement on the 18th Anniversary of the Women’s League of Burma
By Women’s League of Burma

အမ်ိဴးသမီးမ်ားအဖဲြ႔ခ်ဳပ္ (ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံ)၏ ၁၈ ႏွစ္ျပည့္ ႏွစ္ပတ္လည္အခမ္းအနား ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By Women’s League of Burma

Humanitarian Organizations call for Guarantees of Safety and Rights for Refugees before Return to Myanmar Commences
By 15 International Humanitarian Organizations

reports

Reports

“Shadow” National Baseline Assessment (NBA) of Current Implementation of Business and Human Rights Frameworks
By ALTSEAN-Burma and International Corporate Accountability Roundtable

2017 ANNI Report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia
By Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions

“‘I Still Remember’: Desires for acknowledgment and justice for human rights violations in Mon areas of southern Burma”
By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Suffering in Shadows: Aid Restrictions and Reductions Endanger Displaced Persons in Northern Myanmar
By  Refugees International

Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis Enters a Dangerous New Phase
By International Crisis Group

အစုိးရစစ္တပ္ျဖစ္ေသာ ခမရ ၁၄၇ သည္ သီေပါနယ္ေျမတြင္း SSPP/SSA ကို ထုိးစစ္ဆင္တိုက္ခုိက္ခ်ိန္တြင္ ေဒသခံမ်ားကုိ အတင္းအဓမၼေစခုိင္းျခင္း၊ အခေၾကးေငြမဲ့စြာအစားအေသာက္ျခင္း၊ ရြာသားမ်ား၏ ကုန္တင္ကားမ်ားကုိ ေခ်ာဆဲြျခင္းမ်ားျပဳလုပ္
By Shan Human Rights Foundation


Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.

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