Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Mechanism important?

It is important for any future criminal proceedings that evidence of serious international crimes and international law violations committed since 2011 in Myanmar is collected and preserved now. The passage of time and potential attempts to conceal or destroy evidence pose some of the biggest challenges to successful criminal prosecutions of international crimes. The Mechanism’s effort to gather and preserve this valuable evidence will be crucial for future trials. In this regard, it is important to note that the Mechanism’s mandate is ongoing and that it continues to closely observe the situation in Myanmar. Should serious international crimes be committed, the Mechanism will gather the relevant evidence and seek to ensure that the persons responsible will one day be prosecuted. By aggressively pursuing its mandate, the Mechanism hopes to deter crimes and help protect the population of Myanmar.

Will the Mechanism prosecute people and hold trials?

The Mechanism is not a court and cannot arrest, prosecute or hold trials. The function of the Mechanism is to gather and preserve evidence, and prepare case files for national, regional or international courts that may be able and willing, now or in the future, to conduct trials of individuals for crimes committed in Myanmar. However, the Mechanism will only share information if it is confident that the entity receiving the material will protect witnesses and sources of information and respect any promises of confidentiality made by the Mechanism. The Mechanism will only share files with courts or tribunals that respect international human rights law and standards, including the right to a fair trial and where capital punishment cannot be imposed or carried out.

What is the scope of the Mechanism’s mandate?

The Mechanism collects, consolidates, preserves and analyzes evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international human rights law. Its mandate is not limited to any one geographical area of Myanmar or to any particular victims or perpetrators. In its resolution establishing the Mechanism, the Human Rights Council authorized the collection of evidence of crimes and violations occurring anywhere within the territory of Myanmar since 2011. This means that the Mechanism is mandated to investigate past and ongoing situations as well as future situations. Once the evidence is collected, preserved and analyzed, it can be used as a basis for accountability efforts at any time in the future.

How will the Mechanism use the information it collects?

The Mechanism collects evidence from all sources, which it stores in a secured database. The Mechanism will review and analyse all the information it gathers, including the material received from the FFM, to determine if the evidence meets the standard required to hold individuals criminally responsible for serious international crimes and if so, will prepare criminal case files. The Mechanism will share evidence and case files with national, regional or international courts or tribunals including on the basis of universal jurisdiction. However, such courts or tribunals must operate in accordance with international law standards. Moreover, the Mechanism will only share information when the safety and privacy of victims and witnesses are assured. In accordance with its Terms of Reference, the Mechanism may also share information for uses other than criminal proceedings which could contribute to the interests of justice and the deterrence of further crimes.

What role do survivors have in the Mechanism’s work?

Survivors who have suffered and/or witnessed crimes under the Mechanism’s mandate are a key source of evidence and are crucial to building successful criminal cases that will enable perpetrators to be held accountable. As in all investigations of serious international crimes, survivors’ testimonies will serve to establish the commission of crimes, including those that were part of broader pattern or policy. The Mechanism will gather information to identify and contact survivors who may agree to provide such testimonies. Survivors can also provide evidence to the Mechanism directly. Survivors’ testimonies will be kept confidential and stored in a secured database. If survivors give their consent, their testimonies may be shared with national, regional or international courts operating in accordance with international standards.

What will happen with the information collected by the FFM?

After obtaining consent from witnesses and other information providers, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) has transferred almost all of the material it gathered to the Mechanism.  The Mechanism will review and analyse all the information it gathers, including the material received from the FFM, to determine if the information meets the standard required to hold individuals criminally responsible for serious international crimes and if so, will prepare case files.