Ongoing Rohingya Genocide: Myanmar military defies provisional measures ordered by International Court of Justice

The BURMESE ROHINGYA ORGANISATION UK (BROUK) is conducting a webinar discussion on the “Ongoing Rohingya genocide Myanmar military defies provisional measures ordered by International Court of Justice,”on Monday 22 November, from 13:00-14:30, London time. This webinar will provide an opportunity to hear from some leading Rohingya, Burmese and international experts on the scope for justice and accountability for the Rohingya, and all people in Myanmar.

The discussion is extra relevant as it takes place on the same day as the six-month report-back deadline for Myanmar to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Rohingya genocide case, brought by the Gambia. Myanmar is obliged to report every six months to the ICJ on its fulfillment of the provisional measures laid down by the court in January 2020, to prevent further acts of genocide against Rohingya people.

BROUK will also launch its new report on the ongoing Rohingya genocide at the meeting.

The expert panel includes:

  • Akila Radhakrishnan (Moderator), President, Global Justice Center
  • Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
  • Yanghee Lee, Founder Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, former UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
  • Khin Ohmar, Chairperson, Advisory board Progressive Voice
  • M. Arsalan Suleman, Foley Hoag, legal counsel to The Gambia in its case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice

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Another Wave of Atrocity Crimes in Chin State: UN Security Council Must Act Now to End Myanmar Junta’s Campaign of Terror

We, the undersigned 521 Myanmar, regional and international civil society organizations, call on the UN Security Council to urgently convene a meeting on the escalating attacks in Chin State, and address the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in Myanmar. We call for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to consolidate international action to stop the military’s violent assault against the people of Myanmar. The UN Security Council must also impose a global arms embargo to stop the flow of weapons and dual-use goods to the Myanmar military junta.

It has been nine months since the attempted coup by the brutal Myanmar military. 1,236 people have been killed and 9,667 arbitrarily detained as of 3 November, 2021. The junta has continued its violent assault throughout Myanmar, recently deployed troops and increased its attacks against civilians in Chin State, Sagaing and Magwe Regions in north-western Myanmar, while continuing its attacks in Karenni, Karen and Shan States.

On Friday 29 October, the Myanmar military began shelling the town of Thantlang in Western Chin State, setting as many as 200 houses and at least two churches on fire. Soldiers also deliberately torched houses at random.

Save the Children – whose office in Thantlang was set on fire alongside local civil society organizations including Chin Human Rights Organization – strongly condemned the recent attacks stating “the incident is further evidence of a deepening crisis in Myanmar” as the violence continues to affect large numbers of children across the country. Such indiscriminate attacks against civilians and humanitarian organizations are violations of international law and constitute war crimes.

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Open Letter to Members of the U.S. Congress to Pass the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021

Dear Members of Congress,

We, the undersigned 242 Burmese diaspora, local CSOs inside Burma, community-based organizations, and civil society organizations both here in the U.S. and around the world welcome the introduction of the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021, or, the BURMA Act, and call on all members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to co-sponsor this crucial legislation and support its expeditious passage into law. As the situation in Burma worsens daily, U.S. action is vital to the millions of lives currently suffering at the hands of the Burmese military. The BURMA Act will provide much needed U.S. support for the realization of all Burmese peoples’ aspirations for an inclusive, rights respecting democracy.

Since the February 1st coup, the people of Burma have seen increased human rights violations and militarization, and the situation is growing more dire by the day. While the number of people killed by the junta is significantly higher, there are over 1,100 confirmed deaths since February, including at least 75 children. More than 8,700 people have been arrested, of which an estimated 7,104 are still detained. 220,000 have been newly displaced, with 3 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. The World Bank predicts an 18% drop in GDP for Burma this year, which, combined with slower growth in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will leave Burma’s economy 30% smaller than originally expected. The World Food Program estimates that food insecurity will have more than doubled since the coup by October 2021 to more than 6.2 million people.

Despite the Burmese military junta campaign of oppression to terrorize and demoralize the people, they have not won. In each of Burma’s states, ethnic minorities are witnessing the worst of the Burmese military’s violence and crimes against humanity. While it is clear that Burma’s ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted by violence from the Burmese military, the country’s majority Burman group are also affected, representing the extent to which the junta’s attacks are indiscriminate and truly affect all in Burma.

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Symposium on the Current Crisis in Myanmar: Untangling Myanmar’s Credentials Battle and the Implications for International Justice

Excerpt of Opinio Juris article by GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

Of the many perspectives offered by outside observers in the wake of the Myanmar military’s (Tatmadaw’s) attempted coup, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights cogently cut to the core of it: “This crisis was born of impunity.” 

As if to tacitly acknowledge this fact, in his first speech since illegally deposing democratically elected officials, Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing told the people of Myanmar that, “no one is above the law”. He went on, “no one or no organization is above the national interest in state-building and nation-building.” But, of course, the Tatmadaw and Min Aung Hlaing have for a generation been above the law. 

This impunity, which finds its roots in the military’s privileged position baked into Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution as well as in the international community’s mortgage on Aung San Suu Kyi’s ability to politically navigate the country out of the military’s grips, was nevertheless beginning to show cracks.  And it is these cracks that make the crisis within the crisis—the question of who is credentialed to represent Myanmar at the UN General Assembly, the representative of the National Unity Government or the junta—so urgent. 

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Gender and Genocide in the 21st Century: Gender Analysis of Contemporary Genocides

The recent and/or ongoing asserted genocides of the Uyghurs, Rohingya, Yazidis, and Tigrayans all include, prominently, allegations of sexual violence and, in some instances, prevention of births. But whether these are discrete prohibited acts or elements thereof, or should be viewed in composite or as evidence of the intent to destroy the group in whole or in part depends upon a fulsome analysis. This panel of experts will use gendered legal analyses to examine the similarities and differences of each manifestation, and whether or not there are elements that are more or less difficult to discern.

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Gender and Genocide in the 21st Century: How Gender Shapes Genocide

In 2014, ISIS soldiers massacred Yazidi men and boys, while the women and girls of child-bearing age were separated and distributed around the region to ISIS soldiers to be their slaves. In 2017, Myanmar's military used rape and sexual mutilation as weapons of war against Rohingya women fleeing for their lives. As a result of the Chinese Communist Party's coercive birth prevention programs targeting the Uyghurs and other minorities over the last several years, the estimated population loss from suppressed birth rates in southern Xinjiang alone ranges between 2.6 and 4.5 million. Beginning in 2020, armed forces in Ethiopia have used rape and sexual violence to inflict lasting physical and psychological damage not only on victims, but on whole communities. In this discussion, Akila Radhakrishnan and Emily Prey will examine the oft-overlooked, under-litigated gendered dynamics of genocide, why it is so crucial to engage in gendered analyses, and what state parties to the Genocide Convention, including the United States, can do to further these conversations.

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Open Letter in Support of Continuing Recognition of Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar’s Permanent Representative at the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

We, the undersigned, representing a broad movement of 358 Myanmar and international civil society organizations, urge you to ensure that the current Permanent Representative (PR) of Myanmar to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun, retains his position as Myanmar’s representative to the UN for the upcoming 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled to begin on 14 September 2021.

Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun is the incumbent representative of Myanmar and he represented Myanmar throughout the 75th session of the UNGA after his credentials were accepted by the Credentials Committee in November 2020 and approved by the UNGA on 1 December (A/RES/75/19). He was appointed as Myanmar’s PR to the UN by the democratically elected government of Myanmar, which had held office since 2016. His credentials were renewed by the current duly elected government of Myanmar.

The new government, which won in a free, fair and credible general election in November 2020, was due to be formed in February 2021 and take office in March. The general election, which was observed by accredited international election monitoring bodies including the Asian Network for Free Elections and the Carter Center, certified that the election reflected the will of the people of Myanmar. However, on 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military launched a coup, physically prevented the scheduled session of the new parliament and forcibly detained elected members of Parliaments.

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Commemoration and Accountability: Recognizing Genocide and Ethnic Persecution

Description:

In commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the Rohingya Genocide, the Global Justice Center and the U.S. Campaign for Burma invite you to join the discussion on the need to recognize the Rohingya genocide and draw on the connection to the atrocities suffered by other ethnic groups, as well as holding the Burmese military accountable for their crimes against humanity.

Participants:

  • Aung Myo Min, National Unity Government
  • Sharifah Shakirah, Rohingya Women Development Network
  • Grant Shubin, Global Justice Center

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Myanmar’s Garment Workers Are Fighting for Freedom. It’s Time We Fought with Them.

Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed by GJC Legal Intern Courtney Vice.

Since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup d’état on February 1, garment worker union members across the country have stood at the forefront of protests and marches. Thanks to their activism, there is now a long overdue spotlight on their struggle, both as workers and as allies in the movement against the coup. Yet, they are not only fighting for an end to military dictatorship; they are also fighting for the elimination of systemic harassment and violence that has plagued their lives long before the coup.

Myanmar’s antiquated labor system has created a breeding ground for this abuse. International sanctions were dropped in 2016 as Myanmar moved toward democracy and started to set its own labor standards. After the removal of these sanctions, the garment industry boomed. Western brands seeking cheap labor flocked to the country, setting up numerous factories. In 2018, the garment industry accounted for 31 percent of all of Myanmar’s exports.

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UNHRC Side Event on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Description:

In many conflicts around the world today, civilians and non-combatants alike continue to suffer at the hands of parties to armed conflict. The ongoing, persistent, and widespread use of sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflicts as a tactic of war is a flagrant and unacceptable violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. It is an incontrovertible truth that women and girls are disproportionately affected by sexual and gender-based violence. This is especially true for those who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and who are from marginalized groups such as refugees and migrants, internally displaced persons, indigenous women, and persons living with disabilities. Governments, international organisations, and civil society must stand in solidarity with survivors not just in words, but also through actions by actively defending their human rights and agency. As part of these efforts, Canada is organising a roundtable on the theme of “Promoting Credible, Ethical, and Transparent Information-Sharing by Human Rights Defenders to Support Justice for Victims and Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV).” This side event will take place on the margins of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 47th Regular Session.

Participants:

  • Abid Shamdeen, ExecutiveDirector, Nadia’s Initiative
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center
  • Jina Moore, Editor In Chief, Guernica Magazine
  • Yared Hailemariam, Director, Ethiopian Human Rights Defender Center

Press Conference: Women Leaders of Burma/Myanmar Present Demands to International Community

Description:

Grassroots women’s rights activists from Burma/Myanmar spoke for a press briefing on the military coup and its disproportionate impact on women. Occurring less than a week after UN Security Council and UN General Assembly action on the crisis in Burma/Myanmar, the briefing presented demands for the international community from the women of Burma, who have been a central target of military violence for decades.

The briefing featured activists with the Women’s League of Burma, Karenni National Women’s Organization, and Kachin Women’s Association Thailand. In the months since the February 1 military coup, these organizations have regularly challenged international bodies like ASEAN to center the challenges and demands of women in Myanmar.

Participants:

  • Naw Hser Hser, General Secretary, Women’s League of Burma
  • Moon Nay Li, Advocacy and Information Officer, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  • Representative (unnamed for security purposes), Karenni National Women’s Organization
  • Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development
  • (Moderator) Grant Shubin, Legal Director, Global Justice Center

Press Conference: Women Leaders of Burma/Myanmar Disappointed with International Community

At a virtual press conference held today, women of Burma/Myanmar demanded greater accountability from ASEAN and the international community in their response to the recent military coup in the country. Since the coup, the armed and security forces have waged systemic gender-based violence and sexual violence against women, especially within the ethnic community. 

Naw Hser Hser, General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said, “Women Human Rights Defenders are being actively targeted by the military regime. There are chilling reports of female detainees being subjected to harrowing sexual assault, torture, physical and verbal abuse, and intimidation. The military’s use of rape as a weapon of war and sexual violence is a tool to demoralize and destroy ethnic communities. Their widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern. “

Several documented cases recently have shown large-scale violence against women including forcing them to exchange sex for removing their names from the warrant list, sexual assault in custody, and other forms of sexual and verbal abuse. There are also growing attacks on women human rights defenders for leading the resistance against Myanmar's military. At least 895 women have been detained so far and 56 confirmed cases of women and girls being killed, though the numbers could be higher.

“One-third of the Karenni population in Karenni State has been forced to flee their villages due to fighting between Burmese army and people resistance groups. Displaced women and children are at increased risk of being victims of human rights violations. We demand the international community to take immediate actions against the military, and provide access to humanitarian aid for the IDPs, in partnership with local ethnic service providers”, said a representative from Karenni National Women’s Organisation.

Moon Nay Li,  Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT)shared, “The military coup is having the deepest impact on those who are already marginalized due to the decades of civil war and ongoing human rights violations committed  Burmese military. Humanitarian aid must be closely monitored to ensure that it benefits the conflict-affected ethnic communities and not the military. At the same time, they need to make sure that all women and girls get access to health, legal, and social services.”

On 18 June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on Burma/Myanmar with no participation from women leaders or activists on the ground or women’s rights organizations from the country. The resolution also saw a split vote from ASEAN nations with at least four countries abstaining from voting.

“The failure of regional processes like ASEAN in holding the military regime accountable in Burma has been extremely disappointing. Women have historically led the resistance on the ground and hold the key to restoring peace and justice in the country. Absence of their voices and leadership in UN processes will only lead to the repetition of injustice and failure of the international community in fulfilling the purposes of the UN Charter ”, said Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD).

“It is long overdue for the international community to move statements of concern and take real action. Burma’s military is notorious for grave human rights violations, most notably using sexual and gender-based violence as a tool of oppression, and its operations since the coup are no exception. The current crisis was born out of the military’s complete impunity for international crimes, and accountability for ongoing and past abuses must be part of the solution”, said Grant Shubin, Global Justice Center.

For more than seven decades, the military has waged war in several ethnic states of Burma/Myanmar. It is time to hold the military regime accountable by the international community and refer it to the International Criminal Court for these mass atrocities. Ensuring women’s voices, leadership and meaningful participation in all UN processes is the only way the international community can fulfil its obligation to the people of Burma/Myanmar.

The UN Leader Is Sworn In (Again); Myanmar’s Downhill Slide; the US Envoy’s Rising Star

Excerpt of Pass Blue that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

The UN General Assembly passed its first resolution addressing the Feb. 1, 2021 coup in Myanmar, with 119 in favor, 1 against (Belarus) and 36 abstentions. This resolution was voted on the same day the Security Council held a closed meeting on the country’s situation, revealing little about what occurred in the session and still not producing a resolution on the matter.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, said, in part, “The bright sides of the General Assembly’s resolution, including the call on all nations to prevent arms flows into Myanmar, are in stark contrast to the Security Council’s failure to take decisive action.”

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UN General Assembly Passes Resolution on Myanmar Coup

NEW YORK — The United Nations General Assembly today passed a resolution addressing the military coup in Myanmar. It is the first resolution from the general assembly since the coup on February 1.

This resolution comes on the same day of a closed-door briefing on Myanmar at the UN Security Council. The Council has issued several statements on the coup, but has yet to pass any resolution.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“A resolution from the General Assembly is a necessary and positive step for the international community. But just like with Security Council actions that precede it, today’s resolution does not go far enough to meet the demands of Myanmar’s people.

“The bright sides of the General Assembly’s resolution, including the call on all nations to prevent arms flows into Myanmar, are in stark contrast to the Security Council’s failure to take decisive action.

“As the body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, the Security Council can no longer stand idly by while Myanmar’s military uses its decades-old playbook to commit widespread and systematic human rights violations. The time for closed meetings and toothless statements of concern is over.”

“The Security Council must finally do what women’s rights activists in Myanmar have been calling for for years — take concrete and decisive action to condemn the military and hold them accountable for international crimes committed against all of Myanmar’s people.”

The Ongoing Rohingya Genocide and Opportunities for International Justice in Post-Coup Myanmar

Description:

Since the February 1 military coup in Burma, there has been unprecedented widespread support for justice and accountability for military atrocities perpetrated against the people of Burma. This has included supportive statements from leaders within the pro-democracy National Unity Government (NUG). However, questions remain about how these new calls for accountability will complement and support ongoing efforts for international justice, which focus largely on abuses committed against the Rohingya.

During this online event, activists from Burma will give an update from the ground and international justice experts from around the world will share an update of the ongoing international justice processes against Burma at the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and in Argentinian courts through a Universal Jurisdiction case. Panellists will also share insight on how the NUG could work for international justice efforts to build more solidarity among all of Burma’s people, including the Rohingya and other major ethnic minorities.

Participants will include:

  • Akila Radhakrishnan (Moderator), President, Global Justice Center.
  • Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.
  • M. Arsalan Suleman, Foley Hoag, legal counsel to The Gambia in its case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice.
  • Erin Rosenberg, International Legal Expert and former Legal Officer at the ICC Trust Fund for Victims.
  • Thinzar Shunlei Yi, Activist, Action Committee for Democracy Development .
  • Ambassador Stephen Rapp, Former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and Distinguished Fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

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Beyond the Coup in Myanmar: A Crisis Born from Impunity

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

In his first speech since illegally attempting a coup d’etat, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing told the people of Myanmar that, “no one is above the law.” He went on, “no one or no organization is above the national interest in state-building and nation-building.” But in reality, Min Aung Hlaing and indeed all of the military (Tatmadaw) are very much above the law in Myanmar.

Of the coup’s many potential causes, perhaps the most overt is that military leadership thought they could get away with it. The military’s constitutional insulation from civilian oversight and control, the failure thus far to hold them accountable for human rights abuses and international crimes, and even periodic cheerleading from the international community for a “democratic transition” emboldened the military into thinking that subverting the will of the people could be done without major consequence. To quote the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, “This crisis was born of impunity.”

After all, the military has been getting away with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, so why not a coup?

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Reversing the Coup is No Solution for Myanmar

Excerpt of The Diplomat op-ed authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

Almost as soon as news spread of the Myanmar military’s brazen coup on February 1, we began hearing calls for a “reversal” of the coup. Now, the international community’s efforts have focused on restoring the pre-coup status quo, as evidenced by the recent (and failed) ASEAN emergency summit.

These proposals and initiatives ignore the persistent demands from protestors and ethnic groups for a radical and fundamental shift in Myanmar. Perhaps most importantly, they fail to acknowledge that the rapidly deteriorating situation in Myanmar cannot be resolved with a return to the precarious pre-coup balance of power because it’s precisely this unsustainable framework that led to the coup in the first place.

Without a recognition of the need for a complete restructuring of the underlying political and legal system so that it grants ethnic groups a meaningful role and assures justice for the military’s past and present crimes, history will keep repeating itself and the people of Myanmar will continue to suffer.

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Press Conference: Joint Civil Society Appeal for Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar

Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan spoke at a press conference to announce a call to action from more than 200 nongovernmental organizations from around the world. The letter urges the United Nations Security Council to immediately impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar in order to pressure the military junta to stop killing unarmed protesters and end human rights abuses against those opposing military rule.

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