Statement by the Head of IIMM

“The Mechanism is at a very early stage of its operations. Many challenges lie ahead on its journey towards fulfilling the ambitious mandate conferred upon it by the Human Rights Council. The experience of courts and tribunals dealing with international crimes, as well as other comparable international accountability mechanisms, has shown that such investigations are complex, and that it can take time for such information, documentation and evidence to be shaped into strong case files ready for prosecution. Successful investigations require painstaking efforts to locate and obtain the testimony of individuals with knowledge of the crimes, particularly those with evidence concerning the planning, preparation or orders that may have led to the commission of crimes, to collect any documentary or forensic evidence that may corroborate witness accounts, and to gather and evaluate all evidence, both inculpatory and exculpatory.

The Mechanism is, however, acutely aware that each day that passes without accountability for international crimes brings concomitant suffering for the hundreds of thousands of refugees stranded in makeshift refugee camps outside Myanmar, those displaced from their homes to other locations within Myanmar, and the many others who have been victimized or who have lost family members. The voluntary and sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their home communities in Myanmar is likely to be dependent, to an important extent, on whether individuals most responsible for the crimes that uprooted them from their homes are held accountable. Few are likely to seek to return to a place where those that perpetrated serious crimes against them, or their families, still reside with impunity and retain the means or authority to inflict further harm.

The Mechanism is keenly aware of victims’ expectations of its work and the weight of the responsibility that it has been given to pursue avenues towards justice. Nonetheless, even when assisted by the brave efforts of victims and witnesses who seek justice for the serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011, the efforts of the Mechanism alone will not be sufficient. In this regard, the Human Rights Council has urged UN Member States in the Asia region to cooperate with the Mechanism and grant it access and provide it with every assistance, in order to maximize its effectiveness. As emphasized by the General Assembly, the international community as a whole should also affirm its enduring commitment to seeking accountability for the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011.

Continued impunity for such crimes is only likely to lead to further violence and suffering, with accompanying risks to peace and security in the region and beyond. The prospects for a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Myanmar, where all its peoples share the benefit of development and its bountiful resources, depend on the clear demonstration that such crimes will not be tolerated.”

Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

United Nations Office at Geneva (UN Photo / Rick Bajornas)