- Why is the Mechanism important?
- Will the Mechanism prosecute people and hold trials?
- What is the scope of the Mechanism’s mandate?
- How will the Mechanism use the information it collects?
- What role do survivors have in the Mechanism’s work?
- What will happen with the information collected by the FFM?
- How can I send information which I think is important to the Mechanism?
- What is the difference between human rights documentation and a criminal investigation?
- How does the Mechanism ensure the privacy, security and well-being of victims and witnesses?
- How does the Mechanism integrate sexual and gender-based violence in its work?
- Why are open source investigations important for collecting evidence of crimes?
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.
How can I send information which I think is important to the Mechanism?
If you wish to provide information to the Mechanism, you are requested to do so safely, securely, and with an abundance of caution. Your safety is of utmost importance to the Mechanism. Therefore, if at any time you believe it may be unsafe to communicate with the Mechanism, please wait until it is safe to do so – you are best placed to ensure your physical safety and security. DO NOT take unnecessary risks that may lead to any possible safety and security concerns.
Here is some simple guidance when sending information to the Mechanism:
Use only one of the following communication methods.
- Signal: +41 76 691 12 08
- ProtonMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep your communication with the Mechanism CONFIDENTIAL – please do not, to the extent possible, tell your family, friends or others that you are communicating with or sending information to the Mechanism.
When communicating or sending information to the Mechanism, please do so when there is no one around you – for example do not send information from public places where you may be observed.
If you have any concerns about sharing information or materials with the Mechanism, please first make prior contact with us through the above means. The Mechanism is available to discuss any concerns including confidentiality, as well as the ways in which the Mechanism may share the information provided with third parties.
If the Mechanism needs to communicate further with you, we may contact you separately through different channels of communication and may provide you with additional contact instructions.
What is the difference between human rights documentation and a criminal investigation?
The mandate of the Mechanism is to collect information and evidence and also build case files in order to facilitate criminal proceedings by national, regional or international courts against specific individuals. In contrast, human rights documentation or fact-finding typically have broader purposes, such as advocacy for the cessation of armed conflict and the promotion of transitional justice, including truth-seeking. As a result, human rights documentation efforts typically result in public reports and statements about violations, while criminal investigations are usually confidential and are not publicly accessible.
With regard to the standard of proof, human rights documentation is generally based on “reasonable grounds” to believe that violations were committed. However, the standard of proof in criminal cases is considerably higher, requiring the establishment of facts “beyond a reasonable doubt” or with “intimate conviction”. 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 and the examination of inculpatory as well as exculpatory evidence.
How does the Mechanism ensure the privacy, security and well-being of victims and witnesses?
The Mechanism recognizes the importance of protecting the privacy and security of persons who provide information to the Mechanism. It will not share the information they provide, or any information about their identity, without their consent to share with competent courts or other parties. The Mechanism encourages potential information providers to make initial contact with the Mechanism before sharing any information, to ensure that any communications are carried out securely.
The Mechanism also ensures a victim-centric approach in its work. The Mechanism will only interview victims if it will significantly advance the work. It recognises that many victims have already been interviewed in the past for human rights documentation purposes and will strive to prevent unnecessary duplication that could lead to further re-traumatisation. The Mechanism is also working on building its witness protection and support capacity, with the aim of meeting the specific needs of witnesses.
How does the Mechanism integrate sexual and gender-based violence in its work?
The Mechanism recognises that there are many challenges and barriers to effectively investigating and prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes. The Mechanism will ensure that these crimes are given particular attention from the outset, and that the full range of criminality, gravity, and impact of these crimes are all addressed in its work. The Mechanism has recruited several personnel with relevant experience and expertise in investigating these crimes including interacting with victims and witnesses, including children. The Mechanism will also ensure that all its personnel are given regular training in these areas. Protocols and guidelines are being developed to ensure that the Mechanism works effectively to address sexual and gender-based crimes, in a manner that ensures that the voices and needs of those who suffered such crimes are taken into account.
Why are open source investigations important for collecting evidence of crimes?
Open source investigation is a method of conducting investigations through the collection and analysis of publicly available or “open source” information or tools, which are primarily found online. This type of digital information gathering and analysis has become increasingly useful in criminal investigations, particularly when investigators cannot physically go to the crime scene in a timely manner. With mobile phones being utilized more than ever before, people in remote locations can record and post events amounting to serious international crimes in a way not previously possible. Investigators can then look at, archive, verify and analyse this digital information as part of their investigations. Verification and analysis is a rigorous, but an essential part of open source investigations, especially when misinformation and “deep fakes” are rampant on the internet. There are many steps that need to be taken before a piece of content posted online can be presented in a court room, but such evidence is increasingly being used in both domestic and international criminal investigations alike.
Open source information can be useful in providing lead information as well as being corroborative information for other types of evidence, such as witness testimony, or serving as linkage evidence to establish a connection between a perpetrator and a crime. There are different forms of open source information that are of interest to investigators, 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.