GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - A U.N. investigator is calling for Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court and tried for alleged international crimes, including the persecution of ethnic minorities that have forced millions to flee, fearing for their lives. The investigator has submitted a report on Myanmar to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
This is Yanghee Lee’s last report to the Human Rights Council as special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar. When Lee assumed her post six years ago, she said she was optimistic that by now democratic values would have been firmly established in the country. She addresses the council on a video link from Seoul.
“However, devastation and tragedy transpired throughout my tenure on the mandate, and that rather than observing a nation that protects and respects human rights, the world continues to watch as rights violations routinely occur, and Myanmar stands accused of the most serious crimes under international law,” she said.
Lee highlights the many alleged abuses resulting from the conflict between Myanmar’s military and the insurgent Arakan Army, which is now into its second year of fighting in Rakhine State. The Arakan Army formed in 2009 and has been fighting in Rakhine against government forces.
Lee condemns an internet blackout imposed by the government eight months ago. She said that is adversely affecting one million mostly ethnic people in Rakhine, including the Rohingya Muslim minority. Despite the blackout, Lee said she is able to receive daily reports about villages coming under fire, people fleeing their homes and many losing their lives.
“As the government denies their ongoing persecution, in the past few months alone Rohingya numbering in the hundreds have been intercepted on land or at sea risking everything on perilous journeys to escape their homeland, only to be arrested, imprisoned and charged with criminal offenses," she said. "I ask you to consider: what would force you to make such a desperate choice?”
Persecution and violence involving Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya in August 2017 triggered a mass exodus of more than 700,000 members of this group. Many have sought refuge in Bangladesh.
Investigator Lee urges the international community to hold Myanmar accountable for its crimes. She said the country will not be able to transition to democracy unless there is an end to impunity. She said perpetrators of human rights violations and international crimes must face justice.
Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Kyaw Moe Tun, said it is of paramount importance that a special rapporteur listen to all sides of an issue in a professional manner and with good faith in order to draw conclusions in a balanced and impartial way.
Without naming her, he accuses Lee of failing to do so, thereby violating her mandate and becoming part of the problem instead of part of the solution.