Across Myanmar, people continue to pay the price for the government and military’s indifference to basic human rights and accountability.
In Kachin and Shan States, Myanmar’s military has attacked villages and committed abuses against civilians. In recent months, thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes and have been left stranded without access to humanitarian aid or safe evacuation in violation of international humanitarian law. Ethnic armed groups have used children as soldiers and recently deployed land mines.
When civil society groups responded to the plight of displaced civilians with peaceful protests across the country, the government prosecuted over 45 activists under a raft of repressive laws the government has been unwilling to amend. A military-led ministry in Kachin State took matters further by threatening to imprison local humanitarian workers who provide aid to civilians.
Beyond the confines of the conflict, prosecutions for peaceful expression under repressive laws continue as the government has demonstrated little or no appetite for legal reform.
And in Rakhine State, the crisis continues. The agreement between the government and UNHCR and UNDP, while an important step, has not changed the facts on the ground. The government has shown no willingness to address the root causes of the human rights crisis that pervades Rakhine State, through its failure to end discriminatory laws, policies and practices that have for decades deprived the ethnic Rohingya population of basic rights. This is exacerbated by the government’s refusal to even acknowledge the massive abuses its forces perpetrated following the August 2017 militant attacks against some 30 security posts.
Indeed, the government’s continued calls for “evidence” of the crimes against humanity its forces carried out beggar belief in the face of voluminous credible reports of the atrocities that sent some 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh. Given the government’s longstanding failure to provide justice for victims of abuses, its recent announcement that it would establish another commission of inquiry into the violence is not merely inadequate, but an attempt to delay and deflect real justice. We support the Special Rapporteur’s call for the Council to create an accountability mechanism. A IIIM (international, impartial and independent) mechanism is urgently needed to gather evidence on perpetrators of grave crimes and prepare case files for prosecution. This should supplement, but is no substitute for, a Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court. Until there is genuine accountability, there will be no end to Myanmar’s cycle of impunity.