At its 45th regular session, the UN Human Rights Council held an the interactive dialogue with the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar during which a number of Member States and civil society organisations expressed their support for the Mechanism and asked what more they could do to assist it in fulfilling its mandate. They also stressed the importance of holding perpetrators of serious international crimes and human rights violations to account, and called on the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with the Mechanism.
Representatives of States and regional groups that spoke in response to the Myanmar Mechanism’s annual report include Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, European Union (EU), Indonesia, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Philippines, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of). Civil society organisations that participated in the dialogue include the International Commission of Jurists, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Jubilee Campaign, and CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
“The EU commends the role of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) in ensuring justice and accountability and calls upon all States, particularly the Government of Myanmar, and entities, including private corporations, to offer their full cooperation,” said the Head of the EU Delegation to the United Nations in Geneva.
“The EU recognizes the importance of the proactive work of the mechanism to keep abreast of ongoing activities, investigations or legal proceedings that may be relevant to its mandate and emphasises the importance of a gender perspective in all operations, including during investigations,” he added. “We also take note of the work to conduct contemporaneous monitoring of developments in Myanmar that may be relevant given that its mandate is ongoing and covers any serious international crimes or violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011.”
“OIC deeply regrets Myanmar’s persistent non-cooperation with the Mechanism, including Myanmar’s indifference to the request for a visit to Myanmar,” said the Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. “We urge Myanmar to fully cooperate with the Mechanism with a view to contribute to ensure justice for Rohingya. We also call on Myanmar not to destroy any evidence. It is pivotal that the Mechanism engages with and receives cooperation from other relevant entities in the provision of information.”
“Pursuing criminal accountability is a long process and requires long-term sustainability,” said the representative of CIVICUS. “We call on the Council to ensure that the Mechanism can enjoy such sustainability by ensuring it adequate resources.”
Representatives of three Member States – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Philippines and Venezuela – delivered statements which substantially differed from the other interventions, with the representative of the Philippines questioning the budget of the Mechanism, and the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Venezuela expressing support only for Myanmar’s own domestic accountability processes.
Representatives of Member States and civil society also used the interactive dialogue to ask Mr. Koumjian some questions.
The representatives of the EU, Canada, the United Kingdom and International Commission of Jurists asked what the international community can do to further support the Mechanism. Austria asked about challenges in the coming year, while Switzerland asked about challenges linked to COVID-19. Similarly, Malaysia asked about strategies to ensure that the work of the Mechanism can continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Liechtenstein asked to what extent the Mechanism collaborates with the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria, while Indonesia asked how the Mechanism can collaborate with the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) on Myanmar on its findings. The Netherlands asked how the Mechanism ensures that gender-sensitive considerations and sexual and gender-based crimes and violence are integrated into its investigations and documentation. CIVICUS asked what steps the Mechanism is taking to systematize engagement with civil society, and what steps it is taking to ensure sustainability in the event of budget restrictions.
In closing, Mr. Koumjian responded to some of the questions and thanked everyone who participated in the interactive dialogue. He explained that the Mechanism is interested in collecting any relevant evidence and has reached out to the Government of Myanmar for the full report of the ICOE to learn more about how the ICOE conducted its investigations. He also said that the Mechanism puts an emphasis on integrating sexual and gender-based violence in its work, including by recruiting a special advisor and specialist investigators, and by training all staff on sensitivity to sexual and gender-based crimes. The Mechanism will also prioritize such crimes in its case selection process to decide how it will devote its limited resources.
Mr. Koumjian stated his appreciation for the expressions of support for the Mechanism’s work. “We depend upon this Council and the cooperation of the international community in order to accomplish our very difficult mandate,” he said.
“We depend upon States to cooperate with us in order to have access to persons who can provide information,” he added, in response to the question on what more the international community can do to support the Mechanism. He was referring to the Mechanism’s request to conduct its activities discreetly and confidentially in their territories, including by protecting information providers who might be put at risk for cooperating with the Mechanism.