UN sets up body to prepare Myanmar atrocity prosecution files

  • 27 Sep 2018

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council has voted in favour of a resolution to set up a body to prepare evidence of international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011.

Rohingya refugees perform prayers as they attend a ceremony organised to remember the first anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, August 25, 2018. (File photo) ( AFP )

The UN Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to set up a body to prepare evidence of human rights abuses in Myanmar, including possible genocide, for any future prosecution.

The 47-member Council voted by 35 votes to three, with seven abstentions, in favour of a resolution brought by the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

China, the Philippines and Burundi voted against the move, whose backers said it was supported by more than 100 countries.

The resolution sets up a body to "collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011, and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings".

Reaction by Myanmar ambassador

Myanmar Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said the resolution was based on the report of a UN fact-finding mission (FFM) that his government had categorically rejected, and which was unbalanced, one-sided and encouraged disunity of the country.

"The draft resolution is based on serious but unverified accusations and recommendations of the FFM that could even endanger the national unity of the country," he said.

He said the resolution's intrusive language and demands would not contribute to finding lasting resolutions to the delicate situation in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

The new agency is to work closely with any future prosecution brought by the ICC, which said earlier this month that it had jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

"Genocidal intent"

A year ago, government troops led a brutal crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled the crackdown and most are now living in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.

The FFM report said Myanmar's military had carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya with "genocidal intent" and called for commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and five named generals to be prosecuted for the gravest crimes.

In Thursday's resolution, the Council said there was enough information to warrant a competent court "to determine their liability for genocide".

Chinese diplomat Chen Cheng told the Council that Beijing opposed the resolution because it was very likely to exacerbate the tensions. "This is in no one's interest," he said. 

Vote to strip Suu Kyi of honorary citizenship

Meanwhile, Canadian legislators, in a symbolic move, on Thursday voted unanimously to strip Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary citizenship in response to crimes committed against the Rohingya minority.

The move by the House of Commons lower chamber has no effect because honorary citizenship is conferred by a joint resolution of both the House and the upper Senate chamber and officials say it must be removed the same way. Suu Kyi received hers in 2007.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that he was open to looking at stripping Suu Kyi of the honour but said doing so would not end the crisis in Myanmar.

The House of Commons last week unanimously voted to call the killings of Rohingya a genocide.

A US government investigation last month found Myanmar's military waged a "well-planned and coordinated" campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Rohingya.