The Long and Winding Road to Accountability

Pressure on the Myanmar[1] military personnel responsible for the atrocities in Rakhine State is building. Individually targeted sanctions by the EU and Canada have been announced, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee has called for further steps towards accountability at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), and Amnesty International have named 13 individuals from the Myanmar military and Border Guard Police with command responsibility. Meanwhile Myanmar civil society continues to push to end the impunity of the Myanmar military.

Amnesty International, in a report titled ‘“We Will Destroy Everything”: Military Responsibility for Crimes Against Humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar,’ details the atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and the Border Guard Police during its ‘clearance operations’ in late 2017. These operations, which Ms. Yanghee Lee described in her oral statement to the HRC as “possibly amounting to crimes against humanity” were part of a well planned, systematic and brutal operation to destroy Rohingya homes and villages, and drive hundreds of thousands out of the country by force. The Amnesty International report lays the responsibility firmly on the shoulders of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The report also lists 12 other individuals with command responsibility, including 3 from the Border Guard Police and 9 from the military who are culpable for crimes against humanity.

This report corresponds with a special investigation by Reuters news agency that details the deployment of two Light Infantry Divisions – 33 and 99 – to inflict the worst of the atrocities on the Rohingya. These two divisions are known for their brutality in other parts of conflict-ridden Myanmar, including Kachin and Karen States, and are seen as the military’s most ruthless troops. These two divisions, which committed the atrocities on the ground, are ultimately under the control of Commander in Chief, Min Aung Hlaing.

“Individual sanctions are important and send a message that atrocities against the Rohingya people will have consequences. But they will ultimately not be enough to push Myanmar to end its blatant efforts to wipe the Rohingya out as a people.”

Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Thus, while it is welcome that the EU and Canada have sanctioned seven individuals, including the head of the Western Command (that covers Rakhine State) at the time of the operation, General Major Maung Maung Soe, more needs to be done, including targeting the person ultimately responsible, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Currently, the sanctions comprise of asset freezes and travel bans, yet more decisive and substantive action needs to be taken. As Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK stated, “Individual sanctions are important and send a message that atrocities against the Rohingya people will have consequences. But they will ultimately not be enough to push Myanmar to end its blatant efforts to wipe the Rohingya out as a people.”

It is also telling how the Myanmar military’s public relations strategy is a double edged sword, conveniently announcing in a statement that two of the sanctioned individuals, Western Commander, General Major Maung Maung Soe was relieved from his duties, and commander of the Bureau of Special Operations No. 3, Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw was permitted to resign. The reason for General Major Maung Maung Soe’s dismissal was that “he was weak in taking initiative to strike as necessary.” While the statement could be perceived as a response to the EU’s sanctions and concerns regarding the human rights violations against Rohingya in Rakhine State, the statement released by the Myanmar military makes no reference to the sanctions itself or of the human rights violations that have been committed. Rather, it stresses the point that General Major Maung Maung Soe has been discharged for his incompetency for not protecting the security of the country, personnel, family members, Rakhine community and the country in advance of the alleged attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

While the announcement of the individual sanctions of those in the military and other security forces adds to the momentum for accountability, much more needs to be done. Ms. Yanghee Lee called for “the persons allegedly responsible for the crimes be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC [International Criminal Court] or a credible international mechanism” and a mechanism to prepare for such accountability measures be established that would continue to collect documentation and evidence, build cases based on international crimes and violations of humanitarian law, and provide support for victims. This is supported by local and regional Myanmar human rights organizations who released a statement in support of such a move. As they outline clearly, “if the international community fails to act now it may be too late and any such action to be meaningful will have to include justice and accountability.”
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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

United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims 2018

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

ညွဥ္းပန္းႏွိပ္စက္ခံရသူမ်ားကို ကူညီေထာက္ပံ့ေရး အျပည္ျပည္ဆိုင္ရာေန႔

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: Addressing the Needs of Torture Survivors is Key to Building Peace and Democracy

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, Asia Justice And Rights, ND-Burma, Vimutti Women’s Organization, Women’s League of Burma

Joint Statement: The UN Must Establish a Mechanism towards Accountability for Gross and Systematic Human Rights Violations in Myanmar

By Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); Equality Myanmar; Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand; Progressive Voice; Rohingya Women Welfare Society; Smile Education and Development Foundation

Myanmar: Military Top Brass Must Face Justice for Crimes Against Humanity Targeting Rohingya

By Amnesty International

Special Rapporteur’s Call for Accountability for Rohingya Atrocities Must be Backed with Action

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Burma Reinforces Muslims’ Statelessness as Thai Migrant Registration Deadline Looms

By Burma Human Rights Network

EU Sanctions on Myanmar too Limited to Ensure Justice for Rohingya Atrocities

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Burma Government Must Address Root Causes of Decades-long Civil War Before Discussion of IDP Return

By Ei Tu Hta Internally Displaced Person Supporting Committee

ျမန္မာအစိုးရအေနျဖင့္ ဒုကၡသည္မ်ားေနရပ္ျပန္ေရးေဆြးေႏြးမႈမျပဳမီ ဆယ္စုႏွစ္မ်ားစြာရွည္ၾကာလွ်က္ရွိေသာ ျပည္တြင္းစစ္၏အဓိကေၾကာင္း အရာအေပၚတြင္အေလးထားေဆာင္ရြက္ရန္

By Ei Tu Hta Internally Displaced Person Supporting Committee

HRC 38 – EU Intervention: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

By European Union

Without Ending Torture, Implementing Transitional Justice, There Can Be No Chance of National Reconciliation

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Prosecute Dismissed Officers for Atrocities: UN Security Council Should Urgently Refer Myanmar to the ICC

By Human Rights Watch

Statement from Indigenous Karen Customary Land Kaw Seminar

By Karen Indigenous People

Oral Update by Ms. Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar at the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council

By Ms. Yanghee Lee

ျမန္မာ့တပ္မေတာ္မွ လက္နက္ႀကီးပစ္ခတ္မႈေၾကာင့္ ျပည္သူလူထုထိခိုက္နစ္နာမႈအေပၚ ပူးတြဲထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By Ta’ang Women’s Organisation, Ta’ang Legal Aid and Ta’ang Students and Youth Union

reports

Reports

Existence Denied

By Burma Human Rights Network

We Will Destroy Everything: Military Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar

By Amnesty International

Myanmar: Children and Armed Conflict

By UN Security Council Secretary-General


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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