Message from the Head of the Mechanism
Geneva, 28 February 2021 - I am deeply concerned by the statement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reporting that they have received credible information that today, 28 February 2021, at least 18 persons were killed and over 30 wounded when police and military personnel used force, including firing live ammunition into crowds of protestors. This follows reports that hundreds of protestors, journalists, elected officials and political activists have been detained with no apparent legal basis and often with no information about their detention made available by authorities.
These acts, including the alleged use of excessive force against peaceful protestors resulting in killings and injuries, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances, may amount to serious human rights violations as well as crimes against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population. As required by our mandate, the Mechanism will be collecting and analysing evidence of what happened and building case files that could facilitate criminal prosecutions. These attacks on the people of Myanmar must stop.
Last month, the Human Rights Council conducted a special session on "the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar". Member States adopted a resolution "expressing deep concern at the declaration of the state of emergency imposed in Myanmar by the military on 1 February", but also "taking note of the ongoing processes to ensure justice and accountability in respect of alleged crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar." These issues are inextricably linked and the events of the last several weeks clearly illustrate the crucial role of institutions like the Mechanism, which is working to ensure accountability for the past and deter the most serious international crimes from being committed in the future.
During the special session, several Member States and civil society organisations raised concerns about the continuing impunity in Myanmar, and emphasised the need to pursue justice and accountability. They also called on Myanmar to fully cooperate with and allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Mechanism to have access to Myanmar.
The mandate of the Mechanism is to collect evidence of "the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011." The Terms of Reference for the Mechanism make it explicit that the reference to violations of international law includes serious human rights violations. The Mechanism is further mandated to prepare case files that would facilitate criminal proceedings in national, regional or international courts to hold to account those persons individually responsible for such crimes. The temporal mandate of the Mechanism is ongoing and continues to cover all such crimes and violations of international law committed in the territory of Myanmar.
The Myanmar Mechanism is committed to doing our part to ensure that those who committed serious international crimes in Myanmar are held to account. We appreciate the assistance and support of all those who share our aim to end impunity for such crimes in Myanmar.