Statement by Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar
Geneva, 1 February 2023 – Today marks exactly two years since the Myanmar military sent tanks into the streets in an effort to remove the elected government. Over this time, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of serious international crimes systematically committed across the country. We have collected credible evidence documenting the commission of an array of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture, unlawful imprisonment, and deportation or forcible transfer. We are analyzing this evidence and preparing case files to hold perpetrators of these crimes responsible so that they will one day face justice.
There is strong evidence that thousands of people have been unlawfully imprisoned, and that they have been subject to torture and other forms of physical and mental abuse, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence. These incidents are widespread and systematic, suggesting that they are not isolated events but rather the implementation of an organizational policy.
There is also compelling evidence of widespread crimes committed in the various armed conflicts that are ongoing in Myanmar. Civilians and civilian objects, such as residential homes, have been repeatedly and intentionally targeted or subject to indiscriminate attack. These attacks are war crimes, and they enable perpetrators to commit other serious international crimes such as forcible transfer and forcible displacement, often accompanied by the burning of civilian homes in villages considered supportive of armed groups. The Mechanism is focusing its investigations on specific incidents where the impact on victims is the most severe, and we are looking at crimes committed by both security forces and armed groups.
Through our analysis of interview statements, documentation, videos, photographs, geospatial imagery, and social media material, we are finding evidence showing who is responsible for these crimes. Our investigations are constrained by the lack of cooperation by the Myanmar military authorities who are in a position to provide highly relevant and essential information. Multiple requests to them for information and access to the country have so far gone unanswered. Nevertheless, we have collected substantial, credible and direct information from numerous sources, including survivors, eyewitnesses and defectors who have provided crucial information about the crimes and the individuals responsible. We are inspired by the Myanmar people’s courage in sharing information with us, and we have systems in place to keep their evidence and testimonies confidential and secure.
Just as we are sharing evidence with those working on ongoing cases concerning the Rohingya at the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and in Argentina, we are also preparing evidence that can be shared with national, regional or international courts who will one day prosecute those responsible for crimes committed since 1 February 2021.
Perpetrators should be aware that serious international crimes have no statute of limitations. This means that there is no time limit for perpetrators to be prosecuted. The road to justice may be long, but the Mechanism is preserving and analyzing the evidence now so that it will be immediately available for use by relevant judicial authorities in the future. The cycle of impunity will end, and there will one day be accountability and justice for these heinous crimes.
Information on how to communicate securely and confidentially with the Mechanism can be found at https://iimm.un.org/contact-us/confidential-and-sensitive-communications/
The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM or Mechanism) was created by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018 to collect and analyze 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. For more information visit https://iimm.un.org/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org