Following the release of an interim report by the United Nations Fact Finding Mission calling for Min Aung Hlaing and other senior generals to be investigated and prosecuted for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Burma Campaign UK today repeated its call for the British government to support referring Burma to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Fact Finding Mission stated: “Myanmar’s top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States.”
To date, despite overwhelming evidence of violations of international law against the Rohingya, calls from over 100 MPs in the British Parliament, and from Rohingya organisations and refugees, the British government has refused to support referring Burma to the International Criminal Court.
“Prime Minister Theresa May must now support the referral of Burma to the International Criminal Court,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “By not supporting referring Burma to the International Criminal Court, Theresa May is in effect protecting Min Aung Hlaing and his military from attempts to bring them to justice.”
Britain leads on Burma at the UN Security Council (which would have to refer Burma to the ICC) so is the key decision maker on this issue. Other countries are waiting for the UK to take the lead. The British Foreign Office has cited lack of consensus as the reason for not supporting a referral, but as they currently do not support a referral, there are no efforts being made to build a consensus.
Burma Campaign UK argues that if the British government were to support a referral and then work to build a global consensus of countries and international bodies in support, this would have the best chance of overcoming a potential veto from China. The process of many countries coming out in support of an ICC referral would also start to erode Min Aung Hlaing’s sense of impunity and could help prevent further atrocities.
“It is simply not credible for the British government to claim it supports justice and accountability and then refuse to support referring Burma to the International Criminal Court, which was specifically set up for cases like this,” said Mark Farmaner.
Instead of backing an ICC referral, the British Foreign Office is backing a farcical enquiry established by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Rosario Manolo, the head of Aung San Suu Kyi’s enquiry, has stated: “I assure you there will be no blaming of anybody, no finger-pointing of anybody … It is not a diplomatic approach, and a very bad approach, in fact, to be doing finger-pointing, blaming, to say ‘you’re accountable’.”
Kobsak Chutikul, a retired Thai lawmaker and diplomat who resigned from the implementation committee stated “This just goes on and on. Next year, it will be another commission, another board. It is all for show — there is nothing real. It is a hoax.”
Aung San Suu Kyi’s enquiry does not cover crimes committed by the Burmese military against other ethnic groups, in particular most recently in Kachin and Shan States. The UN Fact Finding Mission stated that crimes committed in these states constitute “crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
British government support for a new proposed mechanism for collecting evidence for future prosecutions is of course welcome. However, in the context of their refusal to support referring Burma to the ICC or impose targeted sanctions on the military, it also appears like a soft option being seized on in order to be seen to be doing something, and counter criticism over their weak approach.
“Theresa May needs to reconsider the government’s response to this crisis,” said Mark Farmaner. “First the British government did nothing to prevent this happening, and now it is failing to take effective action in response. It doesn’t get worse than genocide and this is happening on her watch.”
The UN Fact Finding Mission media release and report is available here: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23475&LangID=E
Burma Campaign UK has published a Q&A Briefing Paper on the British government’s sometimes confused and contradictory response to the Rohingya crisis, The paper is available here: https://burmacampaign.org.uk/media/One-year-on-Rohingya-crisis-QandA.pdf