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Report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

September 11th, 2023  •  Author:   Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar  •  5 minute read
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Summary 

The present document is the fifth report submitted by the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar to the Human Rights Council pursuant to resolution 39/2 of 27 September 2018. It covers the activities carried out by the Mechanism between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023.

Four years after it began operations, the Mechanism continues to actively monitor and investigate the deteriorating situation in Myanmar. Armed conflicts substantially intensified during the reporting period. The Mechanism reiterates its previous assessment that there is strong evidence indicating that serious international crimes are being inflicted against the people in Myanmar. With no foreseeable end to the violence, the work of the Mechanism to facilitate justice and accountability is more relevant and necessary than ever.

The Mechanism has made consistent and notable progress in fulfilling its mandate. It significantly increased the amount of first-hand testimonial evidence collected, by conducting several investigative missions to refugee camps and other locations and by carrying out screenings and in-person interviews with witnesses, survivors and defectors. The Mechanism also continued to collect additional evidence, such as photographs, videos, audio material, documents, maps, geospatial imagery, social media posts and forensic evidence. By the end of the reporting period, the Mechanism had collected millions of information items, and engaged with over 700 sources and information providers. The evidence collected will enable the Mechanism to continue building case files and analytical products to prove individual criminal responsibility for serious international crimes in Myanmar.

The Mechanism is sharing evidence it has collected and its analysis for use in ongoing judicial processes. During the reporting period, the Mechanism completed three major analytical reports to be shared with national and international courts or tribunals, focusing on the structure and reporting lines within the Myanmar military; the failure of Myanmar authorities to investigate or punish sexual and gender-based crimes; and the organized spread of hate speech content on Facebook by the Myanmar military before, during and after the 2017 “clearance operations”.

The Mechanism made significant strides in expanding and diversifying its collaboration with civil society organizations, which make critical contributions to its work owing to their access to on-the-ground information and contacts with potential witnesses. In the second quarter of 2023, the Mechanism held its first civil society dialogue, bringing together representatives from relevant civil society organizations to deepen partnerships and strengthen processes for ongoing cooperation and information-sharing. The civil society dialogues will be a regular and important component of the Mechanism’s increased engagement and collaboration with civil society organizations.

Introduction

The present report covers the activities carried out by the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar between1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023.

In its resolution 39/2 of 27 September 2018, the Human Rights Council established the Mechanism with a mandate to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011, and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals. In its resolution 73/264 of 22 December 2018, the General Assembly welcomed the establishment of the Mechanism. In its resolution 43/26 of 22 June 2020, the Council specifically called for the Mechanism to engage in close and timely cooperation on future investigations by, among others, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Four years after it became operational, the Mechanism continues to actively monitor the deteriorating situation in Myanmar and to collect, analyse and share evidence of the most serious international crimes committed in Myanmar. The military continues to carry out widespread and systematic attacks on the civilian population and the armed conflict substantially intensified during the reporting period. In this context, the Mechanism is strategically focusing its investigations on specific incidents where the impact on victims is the most severe. A major focus remains on investigating crimes against the Rohingya, especially those committed during the 2016 and 2017 “clearance operations” carried out by Myanmar security forces in Rakhine State.

The Mechanism operates in a challenging environment with no physical access to crime sites or witnesses inside Myanmar and has serious witness protection concerns. To compensate, the Mechanism is adopting innovations and leveraging the use of advanced technologies and modern investigative approaches to enable the collection of evidence. The Mechanism continues to reach out to authorities in Myanmar to seek their cooperation as called for by the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, but to date, all requests for access to the territory, cooperation and information have gone unanswered.

During the reporting period, the Mechanism significantly increased the number of investigative missions and direct engagements with witnesses and survivors. The investigation of sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children remains a high priority. The Mechanism is also fully integrating the collection and analysis of open source and financial information and evidence in all of the Mechanism’s investigations. Throughout the year, the Mechanism engaged closely with a wide range of stakeholders, including witnesses, survivors, civil society organizations, Member States, United Nations entities and business entities, in order to strengthen partnerships and cooperation in support of justice and accountability for the crimes committed in Myanmar. The Mechanism is very grateful for the cooperation received from witnesses and survivor groups, which reflects the courage and dedication of the people of Myanmar to the fight against impunity.


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