International Community Must Refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court

The Canadian government has recently joined the rallying cry for an international response to the Rohingya crisis, adding to calls from Liechtenstein and the UK House of Commons International Development Committee for action by the UN Security Council (UNSC) to refer the situation in Myanmar[1] to the International Criminal Court (ICC).  This takes place as the Myanmar Army continues its offensives in Kachin and northern Shan States and the Rohingya refugees brace for the cyclone and monsoon season.

The welcomed strategic shift in policy by the Canadian government is the latest in a raft of recent actions taken by the international community to exert concerted pressure on the Myanmar Government to address the gravity of the Rohingya crisis. In the UK, the House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC) has taken a strong stance on the actions of the Myanmar Army and Government by recommending a fundamental change to their approach to aid. Aid, therefore, should not be provided to the Myanmar Government but concentrated on the Rohingya crisis and conflict zones in northern Shan, Kachin and Karen States. Further to this, the IDC has called on the UK to use its permanent membership status on the UNSC to refer Myanmar to the ICC, concluding that the position that Myanmar be considered in a transition to democracy is now untenable. The IDC is not alone in recommending action. Their report comes after both Liechtenstein and Sweden signalled their willingness to consider backing an ICC referral. In addition, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs has presented the new “BURMA Act of 2018”, aimed at carrying out targeted financial sanctions and visa bans against military and security personnel complicit in abuses of Rohingya, Kachin, Chin, Karen and other ethnic and religious minorities.

One pragmatic step Canada has supported is the implementation of an International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), an independent fact finding mission to investigate and collect evidence concerning international crimes. With the support of the international community, this could be a successor to the UN Fact-Finding Mission, which is scheduled to submit its final reporting to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in September and November 2018 respectively. A similar mechanism has been established to collect evidence concerning the Syrian Crisis.

With the support of the international community, this could be a successor to the UN Fact-Finding Mission, which is scheduled to submit its final reporting to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in September and November 2018 respectively.

As the international community continues to condemn the atrocities and promote efforts to seek accountability and justice for Rohingya in Rakhine State, less light is being shone on the conflict-related human rights violations that continue in Kachin State. Since 2011, offensives by the Myanmar Army have caused tens of thousands of ethnic minority civilians to become internally displaced due to the hostilities, which continues unabated. Kachins have been subjected to rape, torture and killing at the hands of the Myanmar Army. These tactics are part of the Myanmar Army’s decades long rigorous pursuit to create a homogenous Myanmar identity, by violently oppressing religious freedom, ethnic identity and equality. The UNSC delegation’s visit to Myanmar at the beginning of this month did not acknowledge the ongoing Myanmar Army offensives and crimes against humanity that have occurred in other ethnic areas. The Kachin Women’s Association Thailand have signalled their dismay at the UNSC for not commenting on attacks occurring in northern Myanmar during their visit. The dire humanitarian crisis in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States in Myanmar and in Bangladesh should be viewed in the context of a wider conflict in which ethnic and religious minorities are systematically and institutionally persecuted by the Myanmar Army. Thus, a holistic approach to conflict in Myanmar is needed in order to cease hostilities, end atrocities and resolve the root causes of conflict. If an ICC referral eventuates, the international community should adopt a holistic approach to address potential international crimes encompassing all ethnic regions of the country.

Since 2011, offensives by the Myanmar Army have caused tens of thousands of ethnic minority civilians to become internally displaced due to the hostilities, which continues unabated. Kachins have been subjected to rape, torture and killing at the hands of the Myanmar Army. These tactics are part of the Myanmar Army’s decades long rigorous pursuit to create a homogenous Myanmar identity, by violently oppressing religious freedom, ethnic identity and equality.

For the time being, the most pressing issue facing the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is the monsoon and cyclone season. The response from the international community has been swift, but a number of obstacles has slowed progress to ensure the safety and security of the refugees in the coming monsoon season. Further safeguards are needed to ensure the situation within the refugee camps do not deteriorate. The international community, particularly the UK, should join Canada and Liechtenstein in calling for the UNSC to refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC. Furthermore, the UN should pass a resolution to establish an IIIM. To end the impunity and see that justice is served is essential in ensuring that Myanmar can have a chance to rebuild a peaceful and harmonious society with genuine reconciliation among its diverse ethnic and religious communities.

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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

Civil Society, Solidarity Activists Express Alarm over Escalation of Conflict in Burma’s Kachin State; Urge ASEAN to Act Decisively on Humanitarian Crisis
By Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – Southeast Asia

Burma Army Targets Kachin Christian Mission School
By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Myanmar: Violence and Unlawful Charges against Anti-war Protesters Alarming for Myanmar’s Civic Space
By FORUM-ASIA

Press Briefing notes on Myanmar
By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The United States Announces Humanitarian Assistance for Rohingya and other Vulnerable People in Burma and Bangladesh
By USAID

CSO’s Statement on the Violent Unlawful Crackdown and Arrest of Public Peace Movement On 12 May 2018
By 390 Civil Society Organizations

ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးလႈပ္ရွားမႈမ်ားအား ဥပေဒႏွင့္မေလ်ာ္ညီဘဲ အၾကမ္းဖက္ၿဖိဳခဲြျခင္း၊ ဖမ္းဆီးျခင္းမ်ားႏွင့္စပ္လ်ဥ္း၍ အရပ္ဘက္အဖဲြ႔အစည္းမ်ား၏ သေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By 390 Civil Society Organizations

reports

Reports

Increased Burma Army Attacks in Muthraw District Force Karen to Resist
By Free Burma Rangers

Urgent release on the Humanitarian Situation in Northern Shan State, Myanmar 14 May 2018
By Joint Strategy Team

Burma Army commits war crimes against Kachin IDPs: blocking access to refuge, using as human shields and minesweepers, indiscriminate shelling, looting
By Kachin Women Association Thailand

ျမန္မာ့တပ္မေတာ္သည္ ကခ်င္ စစ္ေဘးေရွာင္ ဒုုကၡသည္မ်ားအေပၚ စစ္ရာဇ၀တ္မႈမ်ား က််ဴးလြန္ေနသည္။ ဒုုကၡသည္မ်ားႏွင့္ ေတြ႔ဆံုမႈမ်ားကို တားဆီးထားျခင္း၊ လူသားဒိုင္းႏွင့္ မိုုင္းရွင္း ကိရိယာအျဖစ္ အသံုုးျပဳျခင္း၊ လက္နက္ႀကီးမ်ားပစ္ခတ္မႈႏွင့္ လုယက္မႈမ်ား
By Kachin Women Association Thailand


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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