25 August 2021
I want to thank you, Dr. Zarni, for this invitation. And I thank the organisers of this event for inviting me to speak on behalf of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, but most of all, for organising this event, which is so important, so timely, to remember after four years what happened in 2017 and the violence that was inflicted on so many human beings, so many individuals.
The consequences of that violence continue today. The consequences are tragic, and they go on. We have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living as refugees in camps with their lives on hold, in horrible conditions, with generally one hope – one shared hope – to go back home, to live a normal life in the country in which they were born.
The world, unfortunately, is full of tragic events and suffering. And we’ve seen that recently. For example, Afghanistan has dominated the news headlines this week. One crisis after another. And each one, we all turn our eyes to, many of you turn your hearts to. You’re concerned about what happens. But then the news cycle moves on and people tend to forget. But the suffering of those who were the victims of that event continues. And if we want to, in any way, alleviate the suffering and provide some restoration to victims of what they lost, it requires a very long and persistent effort. It requires a concentrated commitment by each of us to continue to fight for justice, for some recognition of what happened, and for restoration of rights that were lost.
One of the things we’ve also learned is that when violence happens with no consequences, when the perpetrators are allowed to enjoy impunity, it’s not just the last group that suffered that is affected. The impunity ferments a cycle of violence affecting more and more people.
We see that today, tragically, in Myanmar, where the way that the military forces acted in 2017 and that the impunity that they enjoyed for those crimes to date has led to – I think most of us would recognise – to the situation today where there is a belief that they are above the law and need not fear facing justice for crimes they commit. To break the cycle of impunity, it is very important that those who commit the most serious crimes eventually face justice.
Serious crimes in international law are often called “crimes against humanity”. Why do we call them crimes against humanity? Because the victims of such crimes are not just the groups targeted, the individuals targeted but all humanity suffers when any group is violently and inhumanely targeted.
I thank all of you attending this event for all the work that you have done to date and I ask each of you to please persist. It’s four years now. It’s likely to be a much longer process, but we must persist and commit ourselves to this long journey to try to seek justice.
Please visit this link to watch the video recording of the event.