Cut the impunity in Myanmar: International community must act now

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Myanmar military - Photograph: Wikipedia

The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) says that, according to credible reports of archetypal Tatmadaw-style clearance operations, recent Myanmar military offensives, including in Mindat, Demoso, Kin Ma and Mandalay, would, adding further to what it had previously committed, constitute crimes against humanity and, in armed conflict areas, war crimes.

The international community must hold those responsible to account.

For the past five months, following the 1 February coup d’etat, the military junta in Myanmar has waged a relentless and merciless campaign of terror against the entire population in an effort to secure a tenuous grip on the situation and crush the nationwide democracy movement.

Credible reports emerge daily of wanton extrajudicial killings, unchecked and widespread torture, indiscriminate abductions, targeted enforced disappearances, multiple rapes and other barbaric criminal acts, such as mutilation and public beatings, at the hands of the junta’s forces.

In the last six weeks, the junta has mobilised the full range of its weaponry, launching devastating airstrikes and heavy artillery fire during massive assaults on civilians defending their homes.

A two-week attack on Demoso, Kayah state, at the beginning of June forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes. Junta soldiers gunned down civilians delivering aid and shelled churches providing refuge to displaced people.

In Mindat, Chin state, civilians were used as human shields amid a brutal ground-and-air assault by junta forces on 12 May that forced thousands of residents to flee into the surrounding jungle, where most remain.

On 15 June, the Kin Ma village in Magway was burnt to the ground after it was set on fire by junta forces, killing elderly residents and destroying 80% of houses in the village.

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Junta forces backed by armoured vehicles used rocket-propelled grenades during a siege on the urban centre of Mandalay on 22 June. At least eight people were killed in the attack. Their bodies were stripped and piled together by soldiers who took photos later circulated on junta-run media.

These are the same repressive tactics that the Myanmar military has used for decades in military operations targeting civilian populations around the country, including as part of the genocidal atrocities committed against the Rohingya, which led to the tragic and massive exodus in August 2017.

“There is nothing new about the three of us condemning the actions of Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers as grave violations of international law,” SAC-M said. “But as the killings and atrocities mount, so must the momentum towards ensuring accountability. Ending the junta’s impunity is more important than ever.”

SAC-M is calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. This is required as part of a global ‘three cuts’ strategy against the junta: cut the weapons, cut the cash, cut the impunity.

SAC-M is also calling for individual states, groups of states, civil society, UN agencies and others to support the global three cuts strategy by taking their own actions to cut the junta’s impunity. SAC-M is keeping a live record of actions, including those taken through the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and domestic courts, including the Argentinian Federal Criminal Court, that contribute to cutting the junta’s impunity.

The live record can be found here

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Myanmar’s united democracy movement has called for justice and accountability. It speaks for the people of Myanmar. The international community must act now. – SAC-M

Yanghee Lee is the former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, who held the mandate from 2014 to 2020

Marzuki Darusman is the former chair of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFMM)

Chris Sidoti is a former member of the FFMM

In 2018, the FFMM called for the investigation and prosecution of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his top military leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In 2019, the FFMM exposed the extent to which the Myanmar military uses its own businesses, foreign companies and arms deals to sustain its operations and called for immediate targeted sanctions and arms embargoes.

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