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School attack in Let Yet Kone village may be considered a war crime with commanders criminally liable

September 27th, 2022  •  Author:   Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar  •  3 minute read
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Geneva, 27 September 2022 – The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar is collecting evidence concerning the recent sustained attack on a school located in Let Yet Kone village, Sagaing Region, to assess criminal responsibility. At least 12 people are reported to have been killed, including several children.

Multiple reports indicate that the school, located in the compound of a monastery, came under attack by Tatmadaw forces for several hours on 16 September –  first from helicopters firing rockets and machine-guns, followed by an infantry attack.

Armed attacks that target civilians are prohibited by international laws of war and can be punished as war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Tatmadaw spokesperson, Major General Zaw Min Htun, has claimed that the attack on Let Yet Kone did not target civilians but rather Kachin Independence Army and People’s Defence Force soldiers thought to be present at the school. However, even if this was the case and the armed attack had a military objective, it is prohibited according to the laws of war if it is expected to result in civilian injuries or deaths that are excessive in relation to the expected direct military advantage achieved by the attack.

Commanders who decide to launch a military attack in proximity to civilians have three specific obligations under international law. They must do everything possible to verify the existence of the military objectives; take all practicable precautions in the choice of methods and means of warfare to avoid or minimize harm to civilians; and must not launch attacks which may be expected to cause disproportionate civilian casualties or civilian property damage.

Commanders who intentionally or recklessly disregard these obligations in ordering or launching an attack may be criminally liable, as would be any soldiers or pilots who follow orders to carry out what they must know, given the circumstances, to be a disproportionate attack.

Schools are places where civilians – including children – are typically present in large numbers. Commanders must therefore take special care to confirm the existence and nature of any possible military target, assess the number of civilians in the area, and adopt means and methods to minimize the risk of harm to them.

Information on how to communicate securely with the Mechanism about this or other serious international crimes that may have been committed in Myanmar can be found at iimm.un.org/contact-us/. Please avoid taking unnecessary risks that may compromise safety, and only communicate with us via secure channels.

The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM or Mechanism) was created by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018 to collect and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and other violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011. It aims to facilitate justice and accountability by preserving and organizing this evidence and preparing case files for use in future prosecutions of those responsible in national, regional and international courts.

For more information visit https://iimm.un.org/


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