Statement by Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar
Geneva, 30 January 2024 – Three years ago, the Myanmar military overthrew the country’s elected government. A host of serious international crimes followed, starting with the violent suppression of protests and arrests of those daring to speak out against the military regime. Thousands, including political opponents and journalists, have been detained without due process of law, and these detentions have often been accompanied by torture and other abuses, including sexual violence.
The military takeover also triggered an intensification of armed conflicts in Myanmar, during which brutal crimes have been committed, including indiscriminate air strikes killing numerous civilians, mass killings of detainees, dismemberment and desecration of bodies, rape, and the deliberate burning of entire villages. Thousands have been killed, and around two million have been displaced.
The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar has been collecting evidence of these crimes from hundreds of sources over the past three years. The evidence reveals a pattern that indicates that these are not isolated crimes but rather a manifestation of an organizational policy, implemented on a widespread and systematic basis by the military regime. No one has yet been held accountable for these crimes, which has deepened the culture of impunity in the country.
Through our analysis of the information we have collected, including testimonies from survivors, defectors and eyewitnesses, we are assembling evidence which can reveal who is responsible for these crimes. This includes the identity of those who are directing this policy, and many of those committing the crimes on the ground, from the air, or inside detention facilities. We are investigating the perpetrators who ordered and executed these crimes, as well as those who failed to punish the crimes committed by those under their command.
The Mechanism continues to collect and analyze new information it receives regarding past or ongoing crimes, and each piece of evidence takes us closer to seeing the perpetrators held to account. We stand ready to support relevant authorities from national, regional or international courts or tribunals who will prosecute these crimes, now or in the future. We believe that one day this evidence will be presented in a court of law and those responsible will face justice.
The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM or Mechanism) was created by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018 to collect and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and other violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011. It aims to facilitate justice and accountability by preserving and organizing this evidence and preparing case files for use in future prosecutions of those responsible in national, regional and international courts.