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Myanmar

Myanmar military 'can be punished for atrocities'

Legal analysis offers the National Unity Government advice on holding the junta accountable for crimes

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: August 19, 2021 09:01 AM GMT
Myanmar military 'can be punished for atrocities'

Members of Britain's Myanmar community demonstrate in London against the military coup on the 33rd anniversary of the 8888 Uprising on Aug. 8. (Photo: AFP)

The National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, established by ousted lawmakers, has been urged to engage the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold the military accountable for atrocities.

The NUG can delegate jurisdiction to the ICC to investigate and prosecute mass atrocities that occurred in the country since 2002, according to a legal analysis by Fortify Rights.

It said the NUG can do this in two ways: first, by lodging what is known as an Article 12(3) declaration with the ICC, and second, by formally acceding to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court.

The rights group’s 48-page legal analysis, titled “Ending Impunity in Myanmar” and released on Aug. 19, explains how the NUG could address past, present and future atrocities.

An Article 12(3) declaration could provide immediate jurisdiction to the court to address specific crimes. Full accession to the Rome Statute would further entitle Myanmar to all the rights of a state party to the statute.

Fortify Rights said only state parties to the Rome Statute can challenge a validly deposited accession. States that would be expected to challenge the NUG’s accession, such as China, Russia or certain Southeast Asian governments, are not parties to the statute, meaning they have no standing to challenge the NUG’s accession.

States that historically protected the Myanmar military from legal accountability would have no direct power to block this

“The NUG has an opportunity to bring Myanmar significantly closer to justice and accountability,” said Fortify Rights chief executive Matthew Smith.

“Our analysis finds that the NUG can enter Myanmar into the Rome Statute under international law, and UN member states would do well to support these efforts.”

Smith stressed that “states that historically protected the Myanmar military from legal accountability would have no direct power to block this.”

Ethnic minorities in Myanmar have faced mass atrocities at the hands of the military for decades with little to no access to justice or accountability.

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The report explained that past practice suggests that governments with some level of international recognition can act on behalf of the state even in situations where the government does not exercise effective control over the territory or people, such as in the case of a coup.

Myanmar’s army was widely accused of committing crimes against humanity in a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that led to over 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh in August 2017.

UN investigators have called for the prosecution of military leaders including Min Aung Hlaing, the coup leader, at the ICC over atrocities committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities.

The military is also accused of committing crimes against humanity over the killing of peaceful protesters and rights abuses including arbitrary arrests, torture and burning villages since the Feb. 1 coup.

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