8381st Security Council Meeting: Situation in Myanmar

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24-Oct-2018 02:41:54
Head of human rights fact‑finding mission on Myanmar urges Security Council to ensure accountability for serious violations against Rohingya at 8381st meeting.

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Arguing that impunity for horrific violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar is a threat to international peace and security, the head of a human rights fact‑finding mission this afternoon urged the Security Council to ensure accountability for the crimes.

“There can be no moving on from this crisis without addressing its root causes, all of which still exist today — primarily the presence of an unaccountable military that acts with complete impunity,” Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on Myanmar said as he introduced the 27 August report of the Mission. The Mission was established by the Human Rights Council to ascertain the facts and circumstances of alleged abuses by security forces in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States since 2011.

“The Rohingya and all of Myanmar’s people, in fact the entire world, is looking at you to take action,” Mr. Darusman said. He stated that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Myanmar, and that the Mission found sufficient information to warrant the prosecution of senior officials of the national armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, on charges of genocide.

The report, he said, details “clearance operations” of the national armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, in six villages, which experienced massacres and other killings, including of women, children and the elderly, mass gang‑rape, burning and looting. The Mission verified similar operations in 54 separate locations across northern Rakhine. At least 392 villages were partially or wholly destroyed and over 725,000 Rohingya fled. He called estimates of 10,000 Rohingya deaths conservative.

Maintaining that accountability for those crimes is unattainable domestically in Myanmar, Mr. Darusman called on the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court or create an ad hoc international criminal tribunal. He also urged the Council to adopt sanctions against relevant officials, providing the names of six Tatmadaw commanders for that purpose. He also called for the imposition of an arms embargo against the country.

This afternoon’s briefing was preceded by a procedural vote called after a letter was sent to the Council presidency from the representatives of Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea and the Russian Federation. Through the letter, those countries objected strongly to the briefing, stating that there was no precedence for the Council to invite a special mechanism on a country-specific issue of the Human Rights Council to brief. They argued that the meeting would erode the mandate of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and duplicate the work of other bodies. By the vote, however, the briefing was approved to proceed by 9 votes in favour and 3 opposed (Bolivia, China, Russian Federation) and 3 abstaining (Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan).

In statements before the procedural vote and following the briefing, the nine members of the Council who requested the meeting — Côte d’Ivoire, France, Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom — affirmed that the massive destruction, killings and movement of people that took place in Myanmar certainly had relevance to international peace and security.

They stressed that the facts need to be known both for stabilizing the ongoing situation and for discussing how to prevent such crimes from occurring again. In that vein, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire said that the description of displaced populations in the Mission’s report reminded him of scenes that took place in his country’s upheavals, after which his people said, “Never again”.

The representatives of China and the Russian Federation, on the other hand, stressed that progress is being made toward resolving the complex problems in Rakhine by those who were engaging with the Myanmar Government, including the United Nations and bilateral partners that include China, which is facilitating meetings between Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Government, they said, is implementing agreements it has made and is conducting its own investigation of serious crimes that should be supported. In criticizing the credibility of the Mission’s report, they noted that its members were not able to visit Myanmar itself.

Myanmar’s representative reiterated his country’s objection to the Fact‑Finding Mission, saying it is flawed, biased and politically motivated from its genesis and its report only half‑heartedly mentioned atrocities of the Rohingya Salvation Army. Myanmar categorically rejects the inference that the legitimate counter‑terrorist actions by the security forces in Rakhine state were carried out with “genocidal intent,” he said.

Noting that his Government has resolutely rejected the International Criminal Court’s ruling, he said that the Court’s decision is made on dubious legal grounds because it applies to a situation in which domestic remedies have not yet been exhausted; in fact, his country is conducting its own investigation. Myanmar will never accept any calls to refer it to the Court, he emphasized, adding that the situation is Rakhine state in no way threatens international peace and security.

Also speaking following the briefing this afternoon were the representatives of Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia (Council President, speaking in his national capacity) and Bangladesh.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:46 p.m.
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