UN rights chief urges new panel for Myanmar prosecutions


GENEVA — The new United Nations human rights chief has called for the creation of a “mechanism” to prepare criminal indictments over atrocities in Myanmar, amid allegations of genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.

Ms Michelle Bachelet made the call on September 10 in her first address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva since taking office on September 1 to succeed Mr Zeid Ra’ad Hussein as High Commissioner for Human Rights.

She urged the council to create “an independent international mechanism for Myanmar, to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes, in order to expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts”.

Bachelet urged the council to “pass a resolution, and refer the matter to the General Assembly for its endorsement, so that such a mechanism can be established”.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

A similar panel has already been created for the Syrian conflict. 

A UN Fact-Finding Mission last month issued a damning report that found there was enough evidence to prosecute Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and five other high-ranking officers for crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya.

About 700,000 Rohingya fled northern Rakhine to Bangladesh after attacks by Islamic extremists in August last year triggered a Tatmadaw crackdown accompanied by reports of murder, rape and arson by troops and vigilantes.

Myanmar has vehemently denied allegations of ethnic cleansing, insisting that the Tatmadaw was responding to the attacks.

The Fact-Finding Mission has asked the UN Human Rights Council, which will be in session until September 28, to renew its mandate for another year.

If created, the new mechanism sought by Bachelet to focus on preparing cases for prosecution would comprise a separate group of experts.

Bachelet, a former Chilean president, stressed on September 10 that the proposed panel would also “complement and support the preliminary examination of the ICC Prosecutor”.

The International Criminal Court said last week it had jurisdiction to probe the crisis because of the cross-border nature of alleged “deportations” of Rohingya to Bangladesh, a decision that Myanmar has “resolutely” rejected.

Bachelet welcomed the ICC decision, describing it as “an immensely important step towards ending impunity and addressing the enormous suffering of the Rohingya people.

“I emphasise the imperative of justice for Myanmar,” she said. 

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar