Myanmar is undergoing a period of violence and unrest following the military coup on February 1, 2021. Thousands of civilians have been killed, arrested, tortured, and displaced. This recent violence is occurring in a context where ethnic minorities such as Rohingya Muslims, the Karen, the Kachin, and so many others have already suffered massive and systematic human rights violations at the hands of the government of Myanmar for decades.
Only recently has the international community been positioned to consider holding individuals accountable for these grave crimes. PJI provides limited support on a variety of initiatives related to justice for victims of these violations. Most of this work remains necessarily confidential.
Myanmar civil society has a rich history dating as far back as independence; organisations based in Myanmar and in neighbouring countries like Thailand have persisted in their work for decades against powerful threats from the military. These civil society organisations (CSOs) play a fundamental role in documenting past and ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar.
In August 2022, PJI led a series of information sessions for CSOs on international justice and accountability. These sessions were responsive to urgent requests from local CSOs seeking accountability for atrocity crimes in Myanmar. Topics of discussion included the current case between The Gambia and Myanmar at the International Court of Justice; the International Criminal Court’s investigation into crimes against the Rohingya and how that investigation could potentially be expanded; the mandate and progress of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar; universal jurisdiction cases and theory; and thinking ahead about domestic accountability in Myanmar. The aim of these sessions was to empower civil society to make informed decisions about whether and how to engage with international justice mechanisms.
This intervention finds its roots in several years of work by dedicated practitioners and student attorneys within the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic to engage with civil society organizations in Myanmar on topics related to international justice and accountability.
Several public resources which may be useful to those seeking to learn more about international accountability opportunities for Myanmar are provided below. PJI has also curated a set of resources for local practitioners that are applicable to a variety of contexts.
Myanmar Accountability Tools
- The Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI) has produced a Myanmar-specific supplement to the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict. This supplement provides excellent guidance for practitioners and is available in both English and Burmese.
- The Asia Justice Coalition created a detailed Toolkit on Justice Avenues for International Crimes which contains information on the various justice mechanisms relevant to Myanmar, including the IIMM, ICC, ICJ, and universal jurisdiction, as well as information on CSO engagement with these mechanisms.
- The Asia Justice Coalition has also created a tool on civil society and information collection for international accountability bodies; this tool emphasizes the need for formal training on information collection while also reviewing the key considerations for civil society organizations engaged in this type of work.
Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM)
- The IIMM has created a brief factsheet to answer common questions about the mechanism, including what the mechanism does and how groups or individuals can provide information. This factsheet is available in English and Burmese.
- The mechanism has also provided annual reports on its progress since its founding. The first report to the Human Rights Council provides helpful information about the mechanism’s mandate and the goals it established at its founding. The 2021-2022 annual report contains updates on the mechanism’s progress, including challenges it has faced and intentions for the next year.
International Criminal Court (ICC)
- The ICC webpage regarding the investigation into the situation in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh/Republic of the Union of Myanmar is available at https://www.icc-cpi.int/bangladesh-myanmar.
- The ICC has also provided resources on understanding the ICC and on civil society engagement with the court.
International Court of Justice (ICJ)
- The ICJ’s website provides helpful information explaining how the court works, including a briefer on the court at a glance.
- Updates on the status of The Gambia v. Myanmar on the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide are available at https://www.icj-cij.org/en/case/178.