Statement to the Human Rights Council by Mr. Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, on the 48th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council – Myanmar
It is an honor to present the third annual report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
In accordance with the mandate given to it by this Council, the Mechanism continues to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze the evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011 and to prepare focused cases. on the criminal behavior of those responsible.
Sadly, serious crimes and violations of international law continue to be committed in Myanmar. The nation’s long history of impunity continues to impact the lives of its people. Men, women and children from various regions and ethnicities are suffering. Four years after the army’s 2017 demining operations in Rakhine State, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas still live in temporary shelters in Bangladesh, their lives on hold in hopes of returning to homes many of whom have been left behind. been burned and bulldozed. Since the military took power in February this year, the Mechanism has received reports of the unwarranted use of force against peaceful protesters, arbitrary arrests, acts of torture, enforced disappearances and killings. Thousands of people have fled their homes in various regions, devastating Myanmar’s economy and straining the resources of neighboring states. More than ever, it is necessary to end impunity and to break this cycle of violence.
To date, the Mechanism has collected over 219,000 pieces of information related to post-coup events. Our initial analysis indicates that these crimes are both widespread and systematic in nature. Preliminary evidence shows that around a thousand civilians were killed, including in Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, Bago, Mandalay, Magway and Sagaing. Evidence shows that security forces act in a coordinated fashion in different regions, systematically targeting specific categories of people, such as journalists and medical professionals. Thousands of people have been detained without due legal process.
Under international law, crimes such as murder and arbitrary detention committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population are crimes against humanity and therefore fall within our mandate. The Mechanism endeavors to verify and analyze the available evidence concerning these events and to identify the individuals who bear criminal responsibility.
Over the past year, the Mechanism has:
- implemented a secure and state-of-the-art information management system;
- engaged in raising awareness among key stakeholders;
- staff recruited with a diverse range of expertise and specializations; and
- collected and processed over 1.4 million pieces of information.
We are mobilizing additional resources to strengthen our capacities, particularly those related to the analysis of open source and financial information. We are pursuing innovative evidence-gathering strategies, which we consider essential given that the ruling authorities in Myanmar have denied us access to crime scenes and potential witnesses.
We are determined to ensure that the Mechanism always respects the fundamental principles of independence and impartiality. We seek accountability regardless of the race, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation of the victims or perpetrators.
We pay particular attention to the investigation of sex and gender crimes and crimes against children because, although widespread in conflict situations and devastating for societies, these crimes are often underreported and underestimated in the systems. criminal justice. These surveys require special skills and sensitivities, and our recruitment and training policies reflect our desire to strengthen these capacities.
We always seek to ensure the safety and privacy of victims, witnesses and information providers by emphasizing the confidentiality of our work, ensuring information security and obtaining informed consent from those we contact. about how we will use the information they share.
Our mandate is to collect evidence and build files that can facilitate criminal prosecution before national, regional or international courts. Many challenges remain. Building serious international crimes files is a complex and time-consuming process. It requires evidence to the high standards necessary for criminal convictions. Since the Mechanism is not a tribunal, accountability for the crimes we investigate depends on finding competent authorities willing and able to hold perpetrators to account in a fair process. We will then share our evidence as we have begun to do for proceedings before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to all who have contributed to the Mechanism’s efforts to collect and verify the evidence, including victim and survivor groups, civil society organizations, businesses and many brave people. With the support of this Council, we will continue to do our utmost to gather evidence of the most serious international crimes so that one day justice will be served to the victims of Myanmar and that all will know that impunity for such crimes does not exist. will be more tolerated.