Accountability Essential as Myanmar Makes First Submission to the ICJ

“In the four months since the ICJ issued the provisional measures ruling, our lives in Bangladesh and Myanmar have become worse. There is no justice for us in the camps, where we have no education, no livelihoods, no movement, no internet and no hope for the future.”

Zahidullah, Shohid, and Abdullah Zubair, Rohingya youth leaders in Kutupalong refugee camp

On 23 May, 2020, Myanmar[1] submitted its report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the content of which is supposed to contain information on steps it has taken to implement the provisional measures that it was ordered to carry out after the preliminary hearings in January this year. While the report remains confidential, it is clear from the ground situation and reports from Rohingya themselves that the Myanmar government’s actions have not been sufficient. Furthermore, corporations such as the Japanese firm, Kirin, continue to do business with the Myanmar military companies, providing it with the financial means to continue to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The report that Myanmar submitted to the ICJ is the first of a regular reporting that Myanmar was ordered to submit upon the ICJ’s January ruling. Myanmar was ordered to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this [Genocide] Convention” and after this report, it will submit reports every six months. The report is confidential, but given the large budget allocated to its defense, as well as the obfuscations and deflections given by Aung San Suu Kyi at the court’s hearing in December 2019, it is likely it will contain more such denial of the atrocities that happened to the Rohingya. Furthermore, while the Myanmar government is supposed to be making progress, in reality, the situation on the ground is getting worse. Rohingya civil society groups have documented 56 human rights abuses against Rohingya since the ruling in January. In a powerful opinion piece by three Rohingya youth leaders in the largest camp in Bangladesh, they state that “In the four months since the ICJ issued the provisional measures ruling, our lives in Bangladesh and Myanmar have become worse. There is no justice for us in the camps, where we have no education, no livelihoods, no movement, no internet and no hope for the future.”

Despite this situation, major corporations continue to do business with the Myanmar military companies. As highlighted by the covert activist group, Justice for Myanmar, Kirin Holdings Company, the Japanese firm, made $46million profit in the first quarter of 2020 from its subsidiary, the Myanmar Brewery Company. This is a joint venture with the Myanmar military conglomerate – the Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL). As Justice for Myanmar spokesperson, Yadanar Maung stated, “It is shocking that Kirin operates a subsidiary with the Myanmar military, despite extensive evidence of the military’s crimes. Kirin’s business partners are literally war criminals and continue to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, fueled by profits from their partnership with Kirin. By continuing to operate Myanmar Brewery, Kirin are criminally complicit in the Myanmar military’s grave human rights violations.” The 5 June announcement from Kirin Holdings Company that it is implementing a “strategic review of its operations in Myanmar” is thus acknowledge by Justice for Myanmar.

Kirin Holdings Company was mentioned by the UN-Mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (IIFFMM) report on economic interests of the military as a company that gave a donation to the Myanmar military, and was also documented by Amnesty International. While the IIFFMM has finished its mandate, there remain other mechanisms that are working towards justice and accountability in Myanmar. For example, the UN Human Rights Council established the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, to continue collecting evidence and prepare for any potential future criminal proceedings against individual perpetrators of international crimes. As the head of this mechanism stated in an opinion piece this week, “the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar has a message to send: our investigations are open and the virus will not blind us to ongoing crimes.” Also, in Argentina, court proceedings are underway to open a case against Myanmar in relation to the violence against Rohingya.

All efforts and moves towards justice and accountability in Myanmar are of utmost importance as the Myanmar military continues to wage war against ethnic nationalities and exploit natural resources for their profit even in this time of public health crisis. Yet there needs to be a concerted effort. Companies such as Kirin Holdings Company are undermining the essential work to hold the Myanmar military to account and end the impunity with which it commits grave crimes against ethnic and religious minority communities. Rather than looking at ways to do business with the murderous Myanmar military, Japan and other countries must support the ongoing international accountabiity processes that the victims and survivors of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity such as the Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazar camps have so much faith in. This includes adequate resources for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, a referral of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or establishment of an ad-hoc tribunal, and targeted economic sanctions against the Myanmar military and their businesses.

Justice and accountability are difficult to achieve but not impossible while they are fundamental in building a long lasting and sustainable peace. Meanwhile the many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya need all actors in the international community to be their ally and support these vital strategies to end the violence and impunity. As the ethnic Rakhine are testifying now, unless the Myanmar military is held to account and its impunity ended, they will never stop its persecution of Myanmar’s ethnic and religious minority communities as it has done for decades.


Resources from the past week

actions

Statements and Press Releases

Myanmar: Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Must Ensure Human Rights are Protected amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) and 21 rights organizations in Myanmar

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ – မြန်မာနိုင်ငံအမျိုးသားလူ့အခွင့်အရေးကော်မရှင် အနေဖြင့် COVID-19 ကပ်ရောဂါကာလအတွင်း လူ့အခွင့်အရေးကာကွယ်စောင့်ရှောက်‌မှု သေချာစေရေး လုပ်ဆောင်ရန်

Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) and 21 rights organizations in Myanmar

Hundreds Jailed for Covid-19 Violations: Prison Time for Breaking Curfew, Quarantine Is Excessive and Unsafe

Human Rights Watch

Extension of the Time-limits for the Filing of the Initial Pleadings

International Court of Justice

Serious Corruption Risk as Ever Flow River Prepares to Float on Yangon Stock Exchange

Justice For Myanmar

Ever Flow River ကုမ္ပဏီက ရန်ကုန်စတော့အိတ်ချိန်းတွင် ရှယ်ယာအရောင်းအဝယ်စာရင်းဖွင့်ရန် ပြင်ဆင်နေခြင်းသည် ကြီးမားသော အကျင့်ပျက်ခြစားမှုများ ပေါ်ပေါက်လာမည့် အန္တရာယ်အလားအလာပင်ဖြစ်သည်

Justice For Myanmar


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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