UN forms body to collect evidence for Myanmar genocide case

A bulldozed Rohingya village in northern Rakhine State. Photo: Ambassador Kristian Schmidt / Twitter
A bulldozed Rohingya village in northern Rakhine State. Photo: Ambassador Kristian Schmidt / Twitter

The UN Human Rights Council decided on Thursday to set up a body that will collect and analyze evidence for any future criminal proceedings against Myanmar leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The decision was part of a larger resolution adopted by the council that also calls on Myanmar to end policies of oppression toward Rohingya Muslims, including enforced statelessness, and demands unfettered access human rights investigators to northern Rakhine State, where military operations last year displaced more than 720,000 people.

Among the council’s 47 member states, 35 voted in favor of the resolution, and seven abstained. Burundi, China, and the Philippines voted against it.

Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s ambassador to UN bodies in Geneva, condemned the resolution, saying it was based on the findings of the UN fact-finding mission, which the government of Myanmar has rejected.

“The draft resolution is based on serious but unverified accusations and recommendations of the [fact-finding mission] that could even endanger the national unity of the country,” he said.

China’s ambassador Chen Cheng echoed his Myanmar counterpart’s complaint, saying the resolution did not respect the views of Myanmar, did not address the issue comprehensively, and would only deteriorate the situation in Rakhine State.

Despite the Philippines’ vote against the resolution, the country’s ambassador to the UN in New York opined on Twitter that “we should have abstained”.

The new body established by the resolution will “collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze 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”, including any future prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Earlier this month, the court announced that it had jurisdiction to prosecute Myanmar over the mass deportation of Rohingya into Bangladesh, and the court’s prosecutor has launched a preliminary examination, which will determine whether there are grounds to launch a full investigation.

Thursday’s resolution reiterated the fact-finding mission’s assertion that there is “sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command so that a competent court may determine their liability for genocide”.

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