Frequently Asked Questions

What is the scope of the Mechanism’s mandate?

The Mechanism collects, preserves and analyzes evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international human rights law committed in Myanmar since 2011. This includes genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Its investigations are not limited to any geographical area of Myanmar or to any specific victims or perpetrators. Its primary goal is ensure that those responsible for crimes against the people of Myanmar face justice. The Mechanism prepares case files to share with relevant authorities who can use the information to prosecute perpetrators.

Why is the work of the Mechanism important?

The Mechanism’s work is vital to ensure that perpetrators of the most serious international crimes in Myanmar will one day face justice.  The success of future trials depends on collecting and preserving evidence now before it is lost or destroyed and recording witness testimonies while the information is fresh. Through its work, the Mechanism is sending a message to perpetrators that there is no impunity for their actions. One day, they will be brought to justice. 

Will the Mechanism prosecute people and hold trials?

The Mechanism is not a police force, prosecutor or court and therefore cannot arrest, prosecute or hold trials. The Mechanism collects and preserves evidence, and prepares case files for national, regional or international courts that are able and willing, now or in the future, to prosecute perpetrators of serious international crimes that may have been committed in Myanmar.

What does the Mechanism do with the information it collects?

The Mechanism analyzes and cross-checks all the information it gathers in order to prepare case files against those believed to be criminally responsible for serious international crimes. It will only share evidence and case files with relevant national, regional or international courts or tribunals with the consent of those who provided the information, and if it is confident that the receiving entity will protect witnesses and respect any promises of confidentiality. It will also only share information with courts or tribunals that respect international human rights law and standards, including the right to a fair trial, and where the death penalty cannot be imposed or carried out. On a case-by-case basis, 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.

Does the Mechanism share information with Myanmar?

The Mechanism can share information with Myanmar, but only if the people who provided the information consent to it being shared with Myanmar authorities, and only if the Mechanism is confident that it will not put anyone in danger and if certain other conditions concerning confidentiality and witness safety are met.

In the current case at the International Court of Justice (The Gambia v. Myanmar), the Mechanism has shared some materials with the Myanmar authorities at their request, and with the consent of people who provided the information.

What is the role of victims in the Mechanism’s work?

Witness statements from people who have survived crimes within the Mechanism’s mandate may be valuable sources of information and are crucial to building successful criminal cases that will hold perpetrators accountable. These testimonies are vital to establish the commission of crimes, including showing that crimes were part of broader pattern or policy. All witness statements are kept confidential and stored in a secure database. With the consent of the witness concerned, statements may be shared with national, regional or international courts.

How does the Mechanism ensure the privacy, security and well-being of witnesses and information providers?

Protecting the privacy and security of people who provide information to the Mechanism is paramount, and the Mechanism has systems in place to help keep communications confidential and secure, and to safely store evidence and materials received. It will not share the information it receives or details about the person’s identity without their consent. The Mechanism encourages people to make initial contact before sharing any information with the Mechanism, to ensure that further communications are conducted securely.

The Mechanism recognizes that many witnesses have already been interviewed by other organizations and strives to avoid unnecessary duplication that could lead to further harm or suffering. The Mechanism has also developed its witness protection and support capabilities to meet the specific needs of witnesses, including psychosocial support. However, it cannot provide physical security or guarantee the security of witnesses.

In what format should I send my information?

The Mechanism welcomes information in any language, and it does not need to be sent in a specific format or template. This could include video footage, voice messages, text messages and emails. Please only send sensitive information via encrypted communications channels. Download Signal to send text messages and create a Proton Mail account to send an email. More details on communicating with the Mechanism as securely as possible can be found here.

I sent the Mechanism information a long time ago. Why haven’t I received an update?

The Mechanism has received information from over 700 sources, and it takes time for the investigative teams to review and analyze all the material they receive. The confidential nature of the Mechanism’s work means that the investigators cannot provide updates on the progress of investigations or share specifics on how information has been used to build cases against alleged perpetrators. However, they endeavour to provide feedback to information providers when possible.

The Mechanism also gives general updates on the progress of its investigations in its Bulletins, its Annual Report and in its statements to the Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly.  

The Mechanism has stated that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Myanmar. Why has there been no justice?

The evidence the Mechanism collects is not meant to gather dust in an archive, but to eventually be used in a court of law where perpetrators will be prosecuted. The Mechanism is doing all it can to ensure that its investigations are undertaken as speedily as possible. However, international justice can be a slow and painstaking process. In criminal investigations of complex crimes, it takes time to collect and analyze evidence and build cases against individuals. In some cases, such as in Cambodia, it took decades for justice proceedings to be initiated. The Mechanism is already sharing evidence in relation to ongoing cases concerning the Rohingya at the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and in Argentina.

How does the Mechanism prioritize which incidents it investigates?

With the dramatic increase in the number of potential international crimes committed in Myanmar and the amount of time needed to investigate each incident, the Mechanism has to prioritize. It looks at the nature, gravity and scale of each crime, how it was committed, and its impact on victims. It also looks at the strength of the available evidence, the prospect of an investigation meeting international criminal standards, the likelihood of a court or tribunal taking jurisdiction over the crime, and the possibility of building a case against the alleged perpetrator. Incidents that include sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against and affecting children are prioritized.

How does the Mechanism integrate sexual and gender-based crimes in its work?

Sexual and gender-based crimes have been committed across Myanmar, targeting women, men, children, and members of the LGBTQI community. The Mechanism prioritizes these crimes and integrates them into every investigation, seeking to capture the full extent of harm inflicted on the victims. There are many challenges and barriers to investigating and prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes, and the Mechanism has therefore recruited personnel with relevant experience and expertise, such as interacting with victims and witnesses, including children. The Mechanism provides relevant training to all its personnel, and is developing protocols and guidelines to ensure that the Mechanism works effectively to address the crimes, and that the voices and needs of those who suffered sexual and gender-based crimes are taken into account. 

How does the Mechanism integrate crimes against children into its investigations?

Children from various ethnic groups in Myanmar have been directly targeted by the Myanmar security forces and armed groups and have also been indirectly and severely impacted by ongoing attacks across the country. The Mechanism prioritizes crimes against and affecting children in every aspect of its work and is building cases related to these crimes. The Mechanism has specialist personnel with experience in investigating and prosecuting crimes against children and interviewing child victims and witnesses.

How does the Mechanism integrate financial information and evidence into its investigations?

To enhance the prospects of accountability and justice for victims, the Mechanism is examining financial information and evidence relevant to military and civilian officials, corporate actors and others that may have contributed to or benefitted from serious international crimes in Myanmar since 2011.

The Mechanism’s financial investigators are focusing their efforts on examining networks and links between individuals, corporate entities and groups of interest; weapon supply chains; and the dispossession of land, homes and businesses, particularly during the 2016 and 2017 clearance operations in Rakhine State.

Identifying the proceeds, property and assets of those potentially responsible may also improve prospects for tracking perpetrators and enable their prosecution and possible sources of restitution.

How does the Mechanism use open source investigations?

Publicly available or “open source” information or tools which are primarily found online are increasingly useful in criminal investigations, particularly when investigators cannot physically go to the crime scene in a timely manner. There are many steps that need to be taken before material posted online can be presented in a court room, and the Mechanism conducts a rigorous analysis and verification to identify any misinformation or “deep fakes”.

The Mechanism’s investigators are interested in many types of open source material, including user-generated content on social media platforms; photos, videos, audio recordings and documents that are available on websites; information published by state agencies; postings by journalists, civil society organizations or academic institutions; geospatial imagery; transportation tracking and related data; and reports about corporate structures, ownership and financial transactions.

How does the Mechanism work with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)?

CSOs are on the frontline of efforts to gather information and evidence regarding serious international crimes committed in Myanmar. They are often first on the scene of potential crimes, and frequently provide support to those most affected. They can therefore be crucial sources of information, and their cooperation with the Mechanism is highly valued. The Mechanism is committed to building and strengthening its relationships with relevant CSOs, and it hosts a regular in-person Civil Society Dialogue to increase mutual understanding, support and cooperation in the joint quest for justice. 

What has happened to the information collected by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM)?

After obtaining consent from witnesses and other information providers, the FFM transferred almost all of the material it gathered to the Mechanism.  The Mechanism has been reviewing and analyzing this information to determine if it meets the standard required to hold individuals criminally responsible for serious international crimes and if so, is incorporating this information in its analytical products and case files.

What is the difference between human rights documentation and a criminal investigation?

Human rights documentation typically has broad purposes, such as advocating for the end of armed conflict and the promotion of transitional justice. Human rights documentation efforts usually result in public reports and advocacy statements about violations, while criminal investigations are usually confidential and are not publicly accessible.

Human rights documentation is generally based on “reasonable grounds” to believe that violations were committed. The standard of proof in criminal cases in most jurisdictions is considerably higher, requiring the establishment of facts “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The methodologies used in human rights documentation and criminal investigations also differ significantly, with criminal investigations requiring the establishment of specific elements of crimes based on legal principles such as the “chain of custody” of evidence.