STORY: Myanmar report: Special Rapporteur and Human Rights Chief, HRC54 - 11 September 2023
DURATION (TRT): 4:13"
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16/9
DATELINE: 8 September 2023, GENEVA SWITZERLAND
FORMAT: HYBRID PRESS BRIEFING
Myanmar: Intensified war crimes and crimes against humanity committed, says top rights panel
Serious international crimes continue to be inflicted against the people in Myanmar by the country’s military junta and affiliate militias, while armed conflict has intensified substantially, top UN-appointed independent rights experts maintained at the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.
“Tragically, the frequency and intensity of war crimes and crimes against humanity has only increased in recent months,” said Nicholas Koumjian, head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM).
Presenting the panel’s fifth annual report to the forum in Geneva, Mr. Koumjian noted that the past year had seen “more brazen aerial bombings and indiscriminate shelling, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians including children”.
The report covers the activities carried out by the Mechanism between 1 July 2022 and July 2023. It notes a rise in the number of arrests without due process. The mechanism also has gathered credible evidence that some detainees have been subjected to torture, sexual violence, and other severe mistreatments.
“We have collected compelling evidence of the widespread burning of Rohingya villages and the assaults and killings of civilians. I have been particularly horrified by the numerous accounts of sexual crimes that we have collected,” said Mr. Koumjian, in reference to one of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities who were forced to flee a military crackdown in their hundreds of thousands in 2017.
Established by the Human Rights Council on 27 September 2018, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM)’s role is to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011.
Six years since the mass exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh, the Muslim ethnic minority group is considered to be the world’s largest stateless population that has been denied citizenship rights under the 1982 Citizenship Law in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 960,000 mainly Rohingya people now shelter in Bangladesh with a majority living in the Cox Bazar’s region - home to one of the world’s largest refugee camps.
“The quantity of evidence and information we have been able to collect in the past year from individuals and organizations is unprecedented and frankly, unanticipated,” said the IIMM head.
Although the investigators’ repeated requests for information and access have been ignored by the military authorities, cutting-edge technology has been employed to analyse and verify large quantities of material, such as videos, photographs and other information posted on social media. The investigators are also using geospatial imagery to determine damage to villages before and after attacks.
“We have also begun a dedicated inquiry into financial information related to entities and individuals that have contributed to, or benefitted from, the serious international crimes committed in Myanmar,” said Mr. Koumjian. “We are looking at weapon supply chains, and the dispossession of land, homes, and businesses, particularly during the clearance operations in Rakhine State.”
The Human Rights Council-appointed mechanism intends to use the evidence to facilitate justice and accountability in courts and tribunals that are willing and able to prosecute these cases. “We are currently sharing information and evidence with three ongoing proceedings focused on crimes committed against the Rohingya at the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and in courts in Argentina,” said Mr. Koumjian.
The estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State are subject to persecution and violence, confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, and cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods.
Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Council that “human rights are, and must be, politically neutral. All States have accepted their responsibility to realise all rights and my mandate and ambition are to help every country advance and uphold the full range of human rights – without distinction as to their political system, alliances or stage of development.”
Mr Türk reiterated that “the human rights cause in all its facets has the potential to unify us, at a time when we urgently need to come together to confront the existential challenges that face humanity. This is ultimately about building trust and restoring hope, including through the work of this Council. All of us need to play our part.”
Amid ongoing violence in Myanmar more than 18 months since the country’s military seized power, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that youngsters have been impacted worst. “Myanmar is contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance. In the first six months of 2023, 556 casualties were reported nationwide due to landmines and explosive remnants of war,” said Anne Grandjean, UNICEF’s human rights specialist. “This is 143 per cent of the total casualties reported last year. Children make up 20 per cent of these casualties.”
Lotte Knudsen, head of the EU delegation to the UN in Geneva, emphasized that the bloc “calls on the Myanmar armed forces to immediately hold the use of violences against civilians, create the conditions for safe and dignified return of Rohingya to Myanmar, facilitate the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, release political detainees and allow the population to exercise their rights including their freedom of expression and assembly.”
From the Bangladesh delegation, Mohammad Sufiur Rahman, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in Geneva, noted that his country appreciated the Mechanism’s close engagement to the ICJ, ICC and the court in Argentina to facilitate justice for the Rohingyas” and expressed willingness to continue to cooperate with the IIMM. “The Mechanism’s success in Myanmar is important for the on-the-ground investigations. We ask Myanmar to fully cooperate with IIMM.”