More Urgent Steps Needed Toward Accountability

“Myanmar is failing in its obligation to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide.”

Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

The mandate of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar[1] (IIFFMM), set up by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in March 2017, is coming to an end this month as they presented the findings of their final report to the HRC in Geneva on 17 September, 2019. In their latest report, the IIFFMM found that 600,000 Rohingya remaining inside Myanmar continue to face threat of genocide and yet the government has done nothing to ensure their safety or show willingness to cooperate with the international accountability mechanisms.

During the reporting, Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the IIFFMM stated, “Myanmar is failing in its obligation to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide.” The IIFFMM called on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or to establish an independent tribunal. Civil society organizations also called on the HRC to take concrete action to ensure justice and accountability for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated against ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar.

The final IIFFMM report also covered human rights violations arising out of the most recent conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, stating that it “bears many of the hallmarks of the Tatmadaw’s [Myanmar military’s] brutal military operations, in line with its notorious ‘four cuts’ strategy” that has been used against ethnic communities throughout Myanmar. In addition, the report noted that the protracted conflict in Kachin and Shan States, and its already complex nature, has been further exacerbated by the proliferation of Myanmar military-sponsored militias. Such militias conduct torture and other human rights violations, but as they typically belong to an ethnic community, they are an effective means of dividing ethnic communities by pitting one community, or one part of a community, against another.

“We are seeing the Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] soldiers bring in military trucks full of really big weaponry, including mortar shells. These are weapons that people have not really seen before, so the villagers are so scared the fighting is going to break out soon.”

A Karen local villager

The IIFFMM also noted an escalation of hostilities between the Myanmar military and the Karen National Liberation Army – the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU) – since 2018. The increase in clashes is directly related to the construction of a road by the Myanmar military in a territory belonging to the KNU, in violation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement – the road construction would connect two strategic military bases. As one villager described the situation in the report, “We are seeing the Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] soldiers bring in military trucks full of really big weaponry, including mortar shells. These are weapons that people have not really seen before, so the villagers are so scared the fighting is going to break out soon.” It is no wonder then, that under such conditions, the refugees along the Thailand-Myanmar border have resisted returning home to Myanmar.

As the mandate of IIFFMM comes to an end, it is tremendously important that momentum is maintained to seek accountability and justice for the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities who have been suffering decades of brutal human rights violations by the Myanmar military. For this, the IIFFMM has transferred the information it collected about possible serious crimes under international law to the  Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), which is now operational. The Mechanism, which was established by the HRC at the recommendation of the IIFFMM, is mandated to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011. It will build on the evidence collected by the IIFFMM and conduct its own investigations to support and expedite prosecutions of perpetrators of atrocity crimes in future national, regional and international courts. The IIFFMM says it has a confidential list of over 100 names, including Myanmar officials, suspected of being involved in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, in addition to six generals it named publicly a year ago. These documents have now been transferred to the IIMM.

Coinciding with the dates of the IIFFMM’s final report, Myanmar military’s Senior General, Min Aung Hlaing, visited over a dozen mosques, churches and Hindu shrines and made donations showing his rare attempt to improve relations with non-Buddhist groups. However, many suspect that his visit is a response to the rising international calls for accountability, rather than a genuine will to reach out to the muslim community or to build religious harmony in Myanmar.

The operationalization of the IIMM as the IIFFMM’s mandate comes to an end, is certainly another crucial step taken toward accountability and justice, and yet many more steps need to follow. We must move forward with the extended effort until the perpetrators are being held to account for the crimes they have committed. Now is the time to pursue all possible pathways towards accountability and justice, including a referral of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or establishing an independent tribunal, exercising universal jurisdiction, and to divest from military owned businesses and companies, as well as imposing targeted sanctions and arms embargoes.

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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

Release Detained Kachin Human Rights Defender, Protect Speech and Assembly Rights

By Fortify Rights

Hrc42 Oral Statement on Item 4: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

By FORUM-ASIA

HRC42 Oral Statement on Item 2: Interactive Dialogue with the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

By FORUM-ASIA

Take Urgent Action to End Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes

By FORUM-ASIA , Progressive Voice and Karen Human Rights Group

Oral Statement for the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

By International Federation for Human Rights

Oral Statement in the Interactive Dialogue with the Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar

By International Commission of Jurists

UN Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar: Myanmar’s Rohingya Persecuted, Living Under Threat of Genocide, UN Experts Say

By Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

Human Rights Council Session 42 – Statement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Myanmar – Item 2

By Kingdom of the Netherlands

ရခိုင်နှင့် ချင်းပြည်နယ် ကချင်နှင့် ရှမ်းပြည်နယ်တို့တွင် လူ့အခွင့်အရေးချိုးဖောက်မှုများ သိသိသာသာ များပြာလာသည်ကို Nd-burma မှတ်တမ်းများအရ တွေ့ရသည်။

By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma

Nd-burma: A Significant and Substantial Increase in Documented Human Rights Violations in the First Six Months of 2019

By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma

Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Oral Update to the Human Rights Council

By the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

UN Expert Implores Myanmar’s Suu Kyi: “Open Your Eyes, Listen, Feel with Your Heart”

By the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights In Myanmar

reports

Reports

Final Report: Detailed Findings of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar

By Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

Human Rights Situation in Burma(2019 January – June)

By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma


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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