As the 39th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) concludes this week, it is vital that the Resolution tabled jointly by the European Union and the Office for Islamic Cooperation is adopted to continue the momentum for accountability that is so desperately needed in Myanmar. This Resolution will mandate the HRC to set up an International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism to continue to document and collect evidence of crimes committed by the Myanmar military in preparation for a criminal prosecution.
The Independent International Fact Finding Mission (IIFFMM) on Myanmar presented its final report to the HRC on 18 September 2018, describing in horrific yet necessary detail the scale and depth of mass atrocities committed against Rohingya, Kachin and other minorities in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan States by the Myanmar military. It is a historic report that depicts the realities of ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar who have suffered decades of violence at the hands of the Myanmar military. The Chairperson of the IIFFMM, Marzuki Darusman stated, “I have never been confronted by crimes as horrendous and on such a scale as these.” The report recommends that The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Min Aung Hlaing, as well as five other top generals are prosecuted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As Wai Wai Nu of the Women’s Peace Network – Arakan, expressed in a joint statement by Progressive Voice, FORUM-ASIA and Women’s Peace Network – Arakan, “Our communities have been suffering decades of systematic and institutionalised discrimination and persecution at the hands of the Myanmar military. Now is the time to act.”
At the same time as the HRC, the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has begun a preliminary investigation to determine if there is enough evidence for a full investigation into the crime of deportation. This comes after the ICC ruled that it does indeed have jurisdiction over the crime of deportation, even though Myanmar is not a full member, as part of the crime occurred on Bangladesh territory which is a member. This, however, only covers one crime – deportation – and more needs to be done to cover the whole scope of the crimes committed. As the UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt stated on Twitter while he was making an official visit to Myanmar, “If there is not going to be accountability and justice in Burma, then the international community needs to look at all options including ICC referral.” This need for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to refer the case to the ICC is also supported by the IIFFMM, as well as the Canadian Parliament, which has declared that it officially recognizes the violence against Rohingya as ‘genocide.’
While it is well-known that there is fervent anti-Rohingya sentiment inside the country, which is both driven and legitimized by Government and military propaganda, ethnic minority communities which have borne the brunt of Myanmar military persecution and abuse over many decades are standing in solidarity with the Rohingya and calling for justice. The Karenni Civil Society Network, the Canadian Ethnic Nationalities Organization, the World Kachin Congress, 25 Kachin organizations worldwide, the Karen National Union – Concerned Group, and Karen communities throughout the world have released statements in support of the IIFFMM’s findings. The reasons why many of them are in fact living as diaspora communities throughout the world is because of the past actions of the Myanmar military against their families and communities. They understand only too well the systemic, institutionalized and decades-long policies of discrimination and persecution.
Thus it is vital that the HRC adopts a Resolution that establishes a mechanism to continue collecting evidence of international crimes in preparation for any prosecution, including at the ICC. This must, however, go hand-in-hand with the UNSC taking a concerted and principled stand and refer Myanmar to the ICC. There is momentum to address this long overdue need for justice and accountability, and this must not be lost. There must also be a process to remove the Myanmar military from politics, which as the IIFFMM Chairperson points out “is the greatest impediment to Myanmar’s development as a modern democratic nation. The commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw, Min Aung Hlaing, and all the current leadership must be replaced, and a complete restructuring must be undertaken to place the Tatmadaw under full civilian control. Myanmar’s democratic transition depends on it.”
 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
Statements and Press Releases
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
By FORUM-ASIA, Progressive Voice, Kachin Human Rights Defender and Women’s Peace Network – Arakan
By Human Rights Watch
By International Federation for Human Rights, Odhikar and Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma
By Justice for Rohingya UK
By Mr. Marzuki DARUSMAN, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar
By World Kachin Congress
By UN Fact-Finding Mission
By UN Fact Finding Mission, UN Human Rights Council
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.”