One year ago, the elected government of Myanmar was deposed by military authorities. At that time, I explained that the issues surrounding this coup, its legality under the constitution and the effect on democracy in Myanmar were not within the mandate of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. This is because the coup itself did not qualify as a “serious international crime,” a term defined in our Terms of Reference as including only genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, I explained that given the tragic history of the Myanmar military using violence against political opponents, the Mechanism was concerned and would be closely following events. I explained that if it appeared that crimes against humanity or war crimes were being committed, the Mechanism would fulfill our mandate to collect the evidence and build files that could facilitate criminal prosecutions of those persons responsible in national, regional or international courts.
Tragically, reports received over the last year suggest that well over a thousand individuals have been killed in circumstances that may qualify as crimes against humanity or war crimes. The security forces have detained thousands of civilians in circumstances that include credible allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence and even killings while in detention. The Mechanism is working diligently to substantiate and document the facts underlying these reports to establish whether these crimes were committed and if so, who is criminally responsible, and to prepare files that could facilitate prosecutions. The Mechanism has been able to gather a great deal of relevant material concerning these events and we are adding information and evidence to our files almost daily.
The Mechanism is very grateful to the many thousands of persons and organizations that have shared evidence relevant to our examination of serious international crimes in Myanmar. We are committed to doing all we can to assure the safety and security of those with whom we interact and will make every effort to build cases so that their brave contributions to justice in Myanmar are not made in vain.
Investigations of serious international crimes are always challenging. It typically takes a long time and significant resources to build good cases. The Mechanism is using all possible strategies and innovations to gather and verify evidence in order to build strong case files that can facilitate prosecutions in national and international courts.
The cooperation of States where the evidence and witnesses are located is essential. The Mechanism is grateful to the many States providing ongoing cooperation and looks forward to strengthening and deepening such cooperation in order to advance its mandate.
Governments all over the world have been unanimous in calling for a cessation of the violence by all parties now being inflicted on the people of Myanmar. ASEAN, in particular, has made the immediate cessation of violence, the very first point of its Five Point Consensus. The work of the Mechanism, by collecting evidence of the very worst international crimes, complements these efforts to end the violence.
The Mechanism is closely watching events and working to fulfill its mandate. Those who are considering committing crimes should be aware that serious international crimes have no statute of limitations. International justice has a very long memory and one day the perpetrators of the most serious international crimes in Myanmar will be held to account.