Statement 357 Views

Statement by Mr. Marzuki Darusman, Chairperson of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, at the Security Council

24 October 2018

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

On behalf of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, I thank you for this timely opportunity to brief you.

You will be aware of our recent report to the Human Rights Council, including our detailed findings of 444 pages, establishing the facts and circumstances of recent alleged human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar. These are based on an investigation that scrupulously adhered to international best practice on human rights fact-finding. We worked for over a year to collect and corroborate information, weighing its validity and analysing it against applicable law – in a spirit of objectivity and impartiality. We invite anyone who claims that our report is one-sided or based on a single source to read these 444 pages, including a full account of our methodology.

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

Our report characterizes the recent events in Rakhine State as a human rights catastrophe that was foreseeable and planned. One that will have severe impact for many generations to come – if not forever.

The report describes in detail the Tatmadaw’s “clearance operations” in six villages, marked by large-scale massacres and other killings of civilians, including women, children and the elderly; mass gang-rape; burning and looting. The Mission verified similar operations in 54 separate locations across northern Rakhine State. Over 725,000 Rohingya fled. At least 392 villages were partially or totally destroyed. Estimates of 10,000 Rohingya deaths are conservative. These attacks were widespread and systematic, their modus operandi across northern Rakhine State strikingly similar. While the attacks of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army contributed to this escalation and must be condemned, the security forces’ operations were brutal and utterly disproportionate. They were conducted in total disregard for human life and dignity, in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.

This occurred against a backdrop of State policies and practices implemented over decades, steadily marginalizing and “othering” the Rohingya – resulting in a State-sanctioned and institutionalised system of oppression affecting the lives of Rohingya from birth to death. Similar “clearance operations” – albeit on a smaller scale – occurred in and after October 2016, with complete impunity. The following months were marked by increased intimidation of the Rohingya, rising hate speech instilling fear into other ethnic communities, and the mobilisation of troops and other military assets into northern Rakhine State. The nature, scale and organization of these events demonstrate preparation and planning.

The mass displacement and the burning of villages were followed by the appropriation of vacated lands. Entire villages were flattened and erased, along with every trace of the Rohingya communities. New structures are built for other communities, while the root causes of the exodus, including the oppression and exclusionary rhetoric are denied and continue unabated. Remaining Rohingya in Rakhine State are at grave risk and conditions are not in place for a safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingya in Bangladesh. Returning them in this context is tantamount to condemning them to life as sub-humans and further mass killing.

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

As horrific and intense as it is, the situation of the Rohingya must not be seen in isolation. The Mission found similar patterns of serious human rights violations elsewhere in Myanmar, notably in Kachin and Shan States. These are predominantly committed by the Myanmar military and are rooted in the same policies, tactics and conduct. Also in these conflict areas we found patterns of deliberate targeting of civilians, unlawful killings, torture, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, forced labour and forced displacement.

Many of the serious violations described in our report undoubtedly amount to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, threatening the peace, security and well-being of the world. War crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine States. The Mission also found sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw on charges of genocide. This means that we consider that genocidal intent, meaning the intent to destroy the Rohingya in whole or in part, can be reasonably inferred.

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

At the core of this situation sits the Myanmar military, which has pursued these strategies and tactics for decades. The Tatmadaw consistently and as a matter of policy and tactics targets civilians and rapes women and girls. It actively pursues an exclusionary and discriminatory vision for the country. It has a clear chain of command, with those in leadership positions in effective control of its operations. It acts with total impunity.

The contempt shown by the Tatmadaw for human life, integrity and freedom, and for international law generally, has had a devastating impact on the human rights, security and development of everyone in Myanmar. It is also a threat to regional stability and to international peace and security.

The Security Council holds the power to break this cycle. The key is a strong focus on accountability. Apart from accountability for atrocity crimes being a legal and moral obligation, we submit that there are at least three other compelling reasons for such focus.

First, effective prevention is premised on accountability. A history of atrocity crimes, in combination with impunity and weak State institutions, is a core risk factor for further violations. Sadly, this toxic mix has persisted in Myanmar for a long time. Impunity for gross human rights violations has demonstrably contributed to the validation of deeply oppressive and discriminatory conduct, enabled recurrence of atrocity crimes, emboldened perpetrators and silenced victims. Unless impunity is addressed, violence and associated atrocity crimes will continue and recur.

Second, without accountability there can be no sustainable, safe and dignified return of the Rohingya to Myanmar. How can the Rohingya be expected to return to Myanmar, where their suffering is denied and perpetrators enjoy complete impunity? Can we reasonably expect them to rely for their protection on the same unaccountable security forces who killed, raped and devastated their communities?

Third, there can be no just and lasting reconciliation without accountability. The complex issues of citizenship, the deep-rooted discrimination and oppression, and the distrust between communities cannot be overcome without a human rights and rule of law-based approach. Impunity is the antithesis of that. We firmly believe that accountability will pave the way towards stability, development, peace and security for all in Myanmar.

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

Unfortunately, in Myanmar, accountability must come from the international community. Impunity is deeply entrenched in Myanmar’s political and legal system, effectively placing the Tatmadaw above the law. Myanmar’s internal inquiries have proven to be ineffective failures, with no reason to consider that this will change in the foreseeable future. Even if domestic leaders were well intentioned, accountability at the national level is currently unattainable. The Security Council must refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or another international ad hoc tribunal.

The Council, and its individual members, should also impose targeted individual sanctions against those most responsible for serious crimes under international law. In our report, we identified six of the Tatmadaw’s most senior generals with command responsibility for the “clearance operations” in Rakhine State, starting with the Commander-in-Chief, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing. They must cease to benefit from all international support, both institutionally and personally. This includes an arms embargo on Myanmar and a prohibition of all transactions with Tatmadaw affiliated enterprises.

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

We also call for your support for a comprehensive, independent inquiry into the United Nations’ involvement in Myanmar since 2011. No organization involved in a catastrophe of these proportions should fail to review its engagement and learn lessons for future prevention. The review should include the performance of United Nations organs, agencies, departments, funds and programmes under all three pillars – development, human rights, and peace and security. In addressing and preventing human rights violations, the United Nations succeeds or fails in relation to all three pillars collectively.

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

Were anyone to seek to deliberately foment conflict and extremism, the events in Myanmar could serve as a step-by-step manual. Dehumanize a population. Call them all terrorists. Deprive them of all rights. Segregate and attack them. Rape and kill them. Crowd them in IDP camps or drive them out. And protect the killers from justice. These steps can, and almost certainly will, be learned and deployed in other countries against other populations.

The international community must be gravely concerned. Myanmar presents precisely the kind of threat to peace and security that the United Nations, particularly this Council, was created to address. We urge you to take action. Decisive action is needed to halt the destructive dynamics in Myanmar and to prevent the further fomenting of hatred, hostility, discrimination and extremism that will inevitably lead to further devastation. Impunity must not be excused and continue to embolden the Tatmadaw in its promotion of Bamar-Buddhist supremacy. National sovereignty is not a license to commit crimes against humanity or genocide.

There can be no “moving on” from this crisis without addressing its root causes – all of which continue to exist today, primarily the presence of an unaccountable military that acts with complete impunity. The Rohingya and all of Myanmar’s people, in fact the entire world, is looking at you to take action.


View this original statement HERE.