Fact-finding mission completes task, shares information with new UN investigative mechanism
File photo: Rohingya refugees leave after attending a demonstration at Camp No 4 (Extension) at Kutupalong’s Modhurchhara in Ukhiya on August 25, 2019 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
The United Nations Independent Fact-Finding mission on Myanmar has identified more than 150 individuals who are suspected of being involved in numerous international crimes.
The mission completed its task and shared its findings with a new UN body, called the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which will now be responsible for follow up and preparing of files for criminal prosecutions.
“Exactly one year ago, this mission concluded that the Myanmar authorities, in particular the Tatmadaw, committed crimes against humanity and war crimes against ethnic communities in Myanmar. We found genocidal acts and the inference of genocidal intent in the Tatmadaw’s 2017 ‘clearance operations’ against the Rohingya population,” Marzuki Darusman, chair of the body, said in a statement at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on Monday.
“We recommended further investigation of these crimes, to establish individual criminal responsibility as a basis for future prosecution. I commend this Council for taking the historic decision to mandate an Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar to do exactly that, and I am pleased to report that the Mission has completed the transfer of its materials to the Investigative Mechanism in full compliance with the mandate given to us,” he added.
Darusman further said: “This includes 1,227 interviews with victims and witnesses from a total of 56,500 files. We are confident that the materials we have shared, including a list of over one hundred and fifty people suspected of involvement in numerous international crimes, will serve as an important foundation upon which potential prosecution cases can be prepared.
“We underline the time-sensitive nature of this information and we encourage the Myanmar Mechanism to make the best use of these files,” he added.
How culpable is Suu Kyi?
Darusman called for an expert evaluation on whether Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi can be legally implicated in the abuses committed against the Rohingya minority in Rakine, reports AFP.
“It will become a legal issue whether or not there is an element of culpability here,” he added, mentioning that the mission was not equipped to determine what level of responsibility Suu Kyi should shoulder for the Rohingya crisis.
Furthermore, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee urged Suu Kyi to “feel with her heart before it is too late.”
“I would like to ask the State Counsellor if the Myanmar that exists today is what she had truly aspired to bring about throughout the decades of her relentless fight for a free and democratic Myanmar? I implore you Madame State Counsellor to open your eyes, listen, feel with your heart, and please use your moral authority, before it is too late,” Lee told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Economic disengagement and Myanmar’s crimes
Over the last year, the UN mission produced three additional thematic reports as conference room papers; one on the economic interests of Myanmar’s military, one on sexual and gender-based violence and the gendered impact of Myanmar’s ethnic conflicts, and one on conflict-related and other human rights violations.
In mapping out the Tatmadaw’s vast economic interests in Myanmar, the mission sought to provide a roadmap for economic disengagement from the Tatmadaw, aimed not only at states and inter-governmental organizations, but also at the business community, including international and domestic investors. The purpose of this research is to deter continued and future violations, and ensure accountability for perpetrators. Following the publication of the research, a number of entities have already indicated that they will halt economic dealings with Tatmadaw businesses.
“I call on other businesses and states to follow suit. I also reiterate our recommendation regarding the need for targeted sanctions against Tatmadaw leaders and their businesses, and for investors to prioritize investing in non-military sectors of the Myanmar economy,” Darusman said.
Regarding sexual and gender-based violence, the mission presented a detailed and painful picture of patterns of rapes, gang rapes and other gender-based violence against ethnic communities in Myanmar, including against men, boys and transgender people.
The mission renewed its call to action for accountability for these grave crimes, as action so far taken has been very inadequate.
Rohingya situation in Rakhine has worsened
Contrary to the Myanmar government’s claims, camps for internally displaced persons have not been closed. Those who live in them continue to face daily hardships associated with being segregated from the other communities. If anything, the situation of the Rohingya in Rakhine State has worsened, as they endure another year of being subjected to discrimination, segregation, movement restrictions and insecurity, without adequate access to livelihoods, land, and basic services, including education and health care, or justice for past crimes committed against them by the Tatmadaw.
According to the UN mission, the policies, laws, individuals and institutions that laid the groundwork for the brutal “clearance operations” in 2016 and 2017 remain in place and strong. Human rights catastrophe, impunity, discrimination, hate speech, and persecution continue and the Myanmar government is unconcerned.
The return of close to one million Rohingya refugees to Rakhine State is simply impossible under the current circumstances. There is nowhere safe and viable for them to return to. Rohingya lands and villages have been destroyed, cleared, confiscated and built on, including new structures that resemble camps, with Rohingya forced labour. The government’s repatriation plans are inadequate.
“For this reason, we recommend a moratorium on domestic and international investment and development assistance in Rakhine State to ensure that investment and development assistance do not directly, indirectly or inadvertently consolidate the Tatmadaw’s persecution and genocidal intentions against the Rohingya population,” the statement from the UN mission said.
“This mission firmly believes that international monitoring and public reporting are essential to ensure fact-based advocacy,” it added.
First published in Dhaka Tribune