Report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (A/HRC/48/18)

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The present document is the third report submitted by the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar to the Human Rights Council pursuant to resolution 39/2 of 27 September 2018, in which the Council established the Mechanism. The report covers activities from 8 July 2020 (the date of the previous report to the Council) to 15 June 2021.

The Mechanism has laid a strong foundation for its work since it became operational on 30 August 2019. Surmounting operational challenges arising from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and restrictions owing to liquidity constraints, it has reached a critical level of functionality and built a team and infrastructure capable of effectively and efficiently implementing its complex and technical mandate. The Mechanism has established a secure and sophisticated electronically stored information management system to electronically collect, preserve, process and analyse evidence; significantly expanded its collection of information and evidence using specialized and the most up-to-date technological tools; engaged in outreach to key stakeholders; and recruited personnel with a diverse range of expertise and specializations. To address ongoing challenges and new circumstances, the Mechanism adopted alternative measures and innovations, making use of technology, creative strategies and flexible work arrangements.

Within the scope of its mandate, the Mechanism has been closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar following the military’s seizure of power on 1 February 2021, particularly reports of widespread instances of arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killing and use of force against peaceful protestors. While adjustments to planned activities have been necessary in order to cope with the consequent influx of information and rapidly evolving events, the Mechanism has continued to make progress in collecting evidence relating to earlier events. It has ensured that its resources and capacities continue to be used strategically to advance investigations on all priority situations, including information regarding the situation of the Rohingya population and other situations throughout Myanmar. This is in line with the Mechanism’s commitment to its core principles of independence and impartiality, pursuing all situations, incidents, persons and entities within its mandate.

Building on its achievements to date, the Mechanism will continue to expand its substantive work, intensify its engagements, and bolster its operations to make it possible to bring to justice the perpetrators of the most serious international crimes in Myanmar.

I. Introduction

1. In its resolution 39/2 of 27 September 2018, the Human Rights Council established the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar with a mandate to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011, and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals. In its resolution 73/264 of 22 December 2018, the General Assembly welcomed the establishment of the Mechanism. In a letter dated 27 August 2019 to the President of the Human Rights Council, the Secretary-General deemed the Mechanism to be operational as of 30 August 2019. The Council, in its resolution 42/3 of 26 September 2019, and the Assembly, in its resolution 74/246 of 27 December 2019, welcomed the Mechanism’s entry into operation. In its resolution 43/26 of 22 June 2020, the Council specifically called for the Mechanism to engage in close and timely cooperation on future investigations by, among others, the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice.

2. In less than two years, the Mechanism has developed crucial substantive and operational capabilities to enable it to make important progress in implementing its mandate and advancing the priorities articulated in the strategy set out in its previous report to the Human Rights Council. Yet ongoing challenges and new developments in Myanmar have significantly shaped these priorities, requiring rapid adjustments to operations and creative solutions. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has continued to restrict the Mechanism’s activities, including its ability to travel to engage with relevant stakeholders to collect and verify evidence, enable cooperation, and advance its outreach efforts, especially to witness and victim groups. Reports of widespread instances of arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution and use of force against peaceful protesters following the military’s seizure of power on 1 February 2021 in Myanmar have given rise to an unprecedented influx of information related to alleged crimes within the Mechanism’s mandate that warrant careful monitoring, collection, verification and analysis.

3. The Mechanism has been following with deep concern the recent events in Myanmar and has reiterated calls expressed by the Secretary-General and other United Nations representatives for an end to the violence. The recent events are a stark reminder of the dangers of impunity and the need to ensure accountability for all those who have committed serious international crimes, in order to break the cycle of violence and protect all the peoples of Myanmar. The Mechanism is committed to fulfilling its unique role and will continue to actively engage with all parts of the international community, in particular Member States in the region, in order to fully achieve the purpose for which it was created to facilitate justice and accountability for past serious crimes within its mandate and contribute to the deterrence of further atrocities.