Action Must Go Beyond Condemnation

Myanmar[1] is once again descending into pariah status as it faced multiple criticisms of its treatment of minorities – particularly the Rohingya – during the 37th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) that concluded last week. The Resolution on Myanmar, which was adopted by a vote on 23 March, 2018, indicated the urgent need for accountability to ensure that those responsible for heinous crimes are held to account through credible and independent criminal justice mechanisms, including the possibility of the International Criminal Court to consider cases.

Concrete action is needed without delay, as calls for accountability are mounting. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, opined while the resolution was being debated that the events in Rakhine State “bear hallmarks of genocide,” and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed his “strong suspicions that acts of genocide may have taken place.” The UN-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), which has been tasked with investigating allegations of grave human rights violations in Myanmar, also gave its oral update to the Council joining “the voices that call for the establishment of a follow-up mechanism that will ensure accountability,” while noting that “The events we are examining in detail in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states are products of a longstanding, systemic pattern of human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar.”

In addition, the Special Rapporteur in the delivery of her statement to the HRC, urged the establishment of a UN evidence collection structure in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to support and facilitate any future international criminal proceedings. Cox’s Bazar now houses one of the world’s biggest refugee populations, hosting over one million mostly Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar over the past decades.

The urgent need for international action is made all the more relevant in light of Myanmar’s continuing denial over its treatment of minorities, as it categorically rejected the Resolution, stating that there must be concrete evidence of the crimes being committed. The Myanmar Government has also continued to refuse to cooperate with the UN, first by denying access to the FFM, while more recently barring the Special Rapporteur from entering the country.

The urgent need for international action is made all the more relevant in light of Myanmar’s continuing denial over its treatment of minorities, as it categorically rejected the Resolution, stating that there must be concrete evidence of the crimes being committed. The Myanmar Government has also continued to refuse to cooperate with the UN, first by denying access to the FFM, while more recently barring the Special Rapporteur from entering the country.

Coinciding with the reporting of the FFM and the Special Rapporteur to the HRC, Amnesty International released a report detailing increasing militarization in Rakhine State by the Myanmar Army, as they grabbed lands which belonged to the Rohingya that they burned to the ground only months ago. The eyewitness testimony and expert analysis of satellite images show Rohingya villages being bulldozed in order to build new security force bases. Many of the  remaining Rohingya in Rakhine State see no other option but to flee into Bangladesh as they are forcibly evicted by the Myanmar Army to make way for construction on the very ground where crimes against humanity and possible genocide has been committed. These reports paint a contradictory picture to the Myanmar Government’s expressed commitments to repatriating refugees from Bangladesh.

Amidst the denials and government’s deliberate attempts to destroy evidence, the UN High Commissioner has recommended the HRC ask the General Assembly “to establish a new independent and impartial mechanism to prepare and expedite criminal proceedings in courts against those responsible,” while waiting for the final report of the FFM. The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) has its precedence in efforts towards accountability measures for crimes in Syria, where cases have not been referred to the ICC – despite the gravity of the human rights violations committed – due to geo-strategic concerns. The IIIM in Syria has a complementary, but distinct mandate from other investigative mechanisms such as the FFM, as it collects, consolidates, and analyzes data in order to share the information with national, regional or international courts and/or tribunals that may in the future take jurisdiction over crimes. In any potential future case in which a tribunal is established or the ICC gains jurisdiction over Myanmar, the IIIM has the ability to share its case files with such mechanisms, making it a powerful tool for accountability.

The Resolution, which maintains and strengthens the current human rights mechanisms in place, including by extending the Special Rapporteur’s mandate for an additional year, is welcome. However, further concrete action beyond the regular condemnation of ongoing atrocities by the Myanmar Army and its related security forces and the deafening silence of leaders within Myanmar is needed. What is needed are targeted sanctions and a global arms embargo against the very institution and individuals that continue to commit these heinous crimes without any accountability; what is needed is an international consensus toward referring Myanmar to the ICC, while pursuing options for the application of universal jurisdiction. Those who have been committing human rights violations in Myanmar have enjoyed impunity for far too long, not just in the context of Rakhine State, but throughout Myanmar. They must be stopped with the urgency of now as the people of Myanmar deserve nothing less.

What is needed are targeted sanctions and a global arms embargo against the very institution and individuals that continue to commit these heinous crimes without any accountability; what is needed is an international consensus toward referring Myanmar to the ICC, while pursuing options for the application of universal jurisdiction.

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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

UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Myanmar Strengthens UN Mechanisms on Myanmar, but Stops Short of Going Further
By Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

Myanmar: Lower House Should Reject Proposed Amendments to Peaceful Assembly Law
By Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and Equality Myanmar

“Speaking Truth for Peace: Women’s Experiences of War and Impunity in Myanmar”
By  Asia Justice And Rights, Karen Women’s Organization, Ta’ang Women’s Organization and Vimutti Women Organization

ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးအတြက္ အမွန္တရားကိုဖြင့္ဟျခင္း။ ။ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံရွိ စစ္ပြဲႏွင့္ အျပစ္ေပးခံရျခင္းမွ ကင္းလြတ္ေနမႈတို႔ႏွင့္ဆိုင္သည့္ အမ်ိဳးသမီးမ်ား၏ အေတြ႕အႀကံဳမ်ား

By  Asia Justice And Rights, Karen Women’s Organization, Ta’ang Women’s Organization and Vimutti Women Organization

Karen Villagers Protest Expanding Burma Army Offensives in Mutraw (Hpapun) District
By Karen Environmental and Social Action Network

Seeking Criminal Accountability of the Former President U Htin Kyaw
By Legal Aid Network

သမၼတေဟာင္းဦးထင္ေက်ာ္တြ ျပစ္မႈေၾကာင္းအရ တာ၀န္ရွိမႈကုိ ရွာေဖြျခင္းဆုိင္ရာ ထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By Legal Aid Network

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Bipartisan Resolution Condemning Burmese Ethnic Cleansing, Calling for Safe Repatriation of Rohingya
By US Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Todd Young (R-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ)

reports

Reports

Rohingya Crisis: Pre-monsoon Review Created
By ACAPS

2017 Analysis: Freedom of Expression & Prison Conditions
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)

Speaking Truth for Peace: Women’s Experiences of War and Impunity in Myanmar
By Asia Justice And Rights, Karen Women’s Organization, Ta’ang Women’s Organization and Vimutti Women Organization

ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးအတြက္ အမွန္တရားကုိဖြင့္ဟျခင္း။ ။ ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံရွိ အျပစ္ေပးခံရျခင္းမွ ကင္းလြတ္ေနမႈတုိ႔ႏွင့္ဆုိင္သည့္ အမ်ိဳးသမီးမ်ား၏ အေတြ႔အၾကံဳမ်ား
By Asia Justice And Rights, Karen Women’s Organization, Ta’ang Women’s Organization and Vimutti Women Organization


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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