Lara Kajs | 5 January 2023 |
UN Security Council resolutions and investigations for Myanmar may help bring justice for the people, hold accountable the perpetrators, and could help shape the future of the country. For nearly two years, the people of Myanmar have been subjected to the abusive practices of Tatmadaw forces. Extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances, the targeting of ethnic minority groups, rape and starvation as weapons, and arbitrary arrests have been used by military forces and other armed groups. The perpetrators of all crimes in Myanmar must be held accountable. Justice for the victims is pertinent and can lead to an inclusive and enduring future for the country and its people.
Myanmar Tatmadaw forces have escalated operations against civilians in residential areas throughout the country since they overthrew the democratically-elected government and imprisoned the leadership in February 2021. The use of airstrikes and ground artillery have intensified. Ethnic minority groups, especially Rohingya communities have frequently been caught between Tatmadaw and rebel Arakan Army fighters or directly targeted. There has also been a spike in violence in Rakhine State.
Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar
The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), also referred to as the Mechanism, was created by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018. The objective of the Mechanism is to collect, preserve, and analyze evidence of “the most serious international crimes, in violation of international law”, committed in Myanmar since 2011. The investigation collected more than three million pieces of information from some two hundred sources. interview statements, documents, videos, photographs, satellite imagery, and social media. The IIMM aims to facilitate justice and accountability by preparing case files for use in future prosecutions of those responsible in national, regional, and international courts.
Violence Against Women and Children
Crimes against humanity continue to be committed systematically in Myanmar. Violence against women and children is among the gravest international crimes. They are also the most under-reported and under-investigated crimes. Children in Myanmar have been tortured, conscripted, and arbitrarily detained, including being used as proxies for their parents. The investigation concluded that rape and sexual violence are part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorize or punish a civilian population, and are used as a tactic of war; one of the hallmarks of the military operations conducted by the Tatmadaw, security forces, and other armed groups. Perpetrators of these crimes need to know that they cannot continue to act with impunity.
Violence Against the Rohingya
There must be greater international action to gain justice for Rohingya survivors of grave international crimes. Investigative reports on conflict-related sexual violence have documented patterns of sexual violence crimes perpetrated against them. The Rohingya have faced decades of systematic discrimination, statelessness, and targeted violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Violent attacks in 2017 triggered an estimated 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh; approximately 400,000 of them were children. Most of the Rohingya who were forcibly displaced or deported back to Myanmar, are still in camps for refugees or internally displaced persons.
While the Rohingya consistently express their desire for a safe and dignified return to Myanmar, this will be very difficult to achieve unless there is accountability for the atrocities committed against them, including through prosecutions of the individuals most responsible for those crimes. The IIMM is sharing the evidence to support the international justice proceedings presently underway at the ICJ and the ICC.
UN Resolution 2669 is the first Security Council resolution on Myanmar since 1948 when the country, formerly known as Burma, was granted independence from Britain. The resolution should bring renewed scrutiny to the de facto government’s daily atrocities. It also recognizes the people’s brave efforts toward freedom and democracy. The resolution expresses deep concern about the ongoing state of emergency imposed by the Tatmadaw and its grave impact on the people. It condemns the military’s execution of pro-democracy activists, urges the military to immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, and demands an immediate end to all forms of violence throughout the country.
The resolution includes several references to the 5-point accord adopted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in April 2021, in response to the coup. Junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing has repeatedly violated each point while exploiting the international community’s regard for the region. The junta’s widespread systematic abuses include extrajudicial killings, torture, and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Security forces have killed over 2,600 people and arbitrarily arrested over 16,000.
The military has expanded abusive operations in ethnic minority areas, displacing more than one million people and deliberately blocking humanitarian assistance from reaching populations as a form of punishment. More than fourteen million people – five million children – in Myanmar need humanitarian assistance. The resolution calls for “full, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access.”
Previous calls for resolutions on Myanmar have gone unanswered, especially with regard to the Rohingya. The Rohingya continue to take perilous land and sea journeys that expose them to criminal exploitation including human trafficking and gender-based violence. The resolution emphasized that it is ultimately Myanmar’s responsibility to establish favorable conditions for voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return to Myanmar of all refugees and those forcibly displaced.
Resolution 2669 represents a significant escalation in the council’s engagement in Myanmar and offers a base for continuous monitoring of the situation in the country. It should also monitor the junta’s compliance with stipulations in the resolution.
The Need for More
But the resolution did not go far enough. There should be further targeted sanctions against the junta and any military-owned companies. The resolution should have included a global arms embargo on Myanmar, and the country should be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution. Reports indicate that the initial draft called for an immediate end to arms sales to Myanmar, but it was removed from the text.
TGR welcomes Resolution 2669. The resolution and the investigation are starting points for renewing pressure on the junta and easing conditions for the people of Myanmar. However, until the Security Council, Member States of the UN, and governments around the world respond with action, the situation in Myanmar will continue to deteriorate. As long as the Tatmadaw continues to commit violations with impunity, the future of Myanmar will be a struggle impacted by gross human rights violations and oppression… something already witnessed in numerous parts of the world.
Photo Credit: “Myanmar/Burma: Little hope for Rohingya IDPs” by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid. Licensed under CC by ND 2.0